Allergy Information Meadville Ear Nose and Throat
Allergy shots are a form of long-term treatment that decreases symptoms for many people with allergic rhinitis, allergic asthma, conjunctivitis (eye allergy). They decrease sensitivity to allergens and often leads to lasting relief of allergy symptoms even after treatment is stopped. This makes it a cost-effective, beneficial treatment approach for many people.
Allergy shots are not used to treat food allergies. The best option for people with food allergies is to strictly avoid that food.
There are two phases:
- Build-up phase. This involves receiving injections with increasing amounts of the allergens one time per week. The length of this phase depends upon how often the injections are received, but generally ranges from three to six months.
- Maintenance phase. This begins once the effective dose is reached. The effective maintenance dose depends on your level of allergen sensitivity and your response to the build-up phase
You may notice a decrease in symptoms during the build-up phase, but it may take as long as 12 months on the maintenance dose to notice an improvement. If allergy shots are successful, maintenance treatment is generally continued for three to five years. Any decision to stop allergy shots should be discussed with your allergist / immunologist.
Are There Risks?
A typical reaction is redness and swelling at the injection site. This can happen immediately or several hours after the treatment. In some instances, symptoms can include increased allergy symptoms such as sneezing, nasal congestion or hives.
Serious reactions to allergy shots are rare. When they do occur, they require immediate medical attention. Symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction can include swelling in the throat, wheezing or tightness in the chest, nausea and dizziness. Most serious reactions develop within 30 minutes of the allergy injections. This is why it is recommended you wait in your doctor's office for at least 30 minutes after you receive allergy shots.
This is an alternative way to treat allergies without injections. An allergist gives a patient small doses of an allergen under the tongue to boost tolerance to the substance and reduce symptoms. Unlike most allergy drugs — which only treat symptoms temporarily — sublingual immunotherapy addresses the underlying cause of allergies. Allergy drops are administered under the tongue in gradually increasing dosages until the patient develops a tolerance to the allergy-causing substance.
Who should take allergy drops?
Although most allergy sufferers can benefit from allergy drops, they’re especially ideal for people who can’t tolerate or don’t respond to allergy shots, as well as those who are unable to commit to allergy shot therapy. These people include:
- People with highly sensitive conditions
- Those who are needle phobic
- Those with chronic conditions including sinusitis
- Those with mold allergies
- Those with multiple allergies including dust, pollen, foods, and animals
Are allergy drops safe? Is there research validating their effectiveness?
Allergy drops have been used around the world for more than 100 years, and numerous studies validate both the safety and effectiveness. The World Health Organization has endorsed sublingual immunotherapy as a viable alternative to allergy shots. The Cochrane Collaboration, the world’s most-trusted international organization dedicated to reviewing healthcare treatments, concluded that allergy drop immunotherapy significantly reduced allergy symptoms and the use of allergy medications.
What are the advantages of allergy drops?
In addition to being a viable option for people of all ages, there are other advantages to allergy drops:
- Lower cost, fewer clinic visits. Compared to shots, allergy drops typically cost less and require fewer clinic visits. Most patients receiving allergy drops need only a few clinic visits the first year, and then once every 6-12 months thereafter until visits are no longer needed.
- More convenient. You can take allergy drops at home or wherever you are, making it much easier to stay with your treatment.
Will my medical insurance cover the costs?
Insurance companies may cover the cost of office visits and diagnostic testing. However, because allergy drops are an off-label use of FDA-approved antigens, they are not typically covered by insurance. Allergy drops do qualify for Health Savings Account or Flex Spending reimbursement. Most patients agree that the investment in allergy drops is well worth the lasting results and improvement in their quality of life, and the monthly costs are typically comparable to copays for prescriptions and injection immunotherapy.
I’ve heard that allergy drops are not approved by the FDA. Is that safe?
First, it’s important to understand that the antigens used in allergy drops are the same FDA-approved antigens used in allergy shots. They’re also prepared in the same way as allergy shots. The difference is the route of administration — a dispenser that delivers a drop of antigen under the tongue versus a syringe injecting antigen into tissue.
Antigens are labeled by the FDA for single use through injections and some for sublingual immunotherapy. A number of FDA-approved biologics are considered off label use when delivered via sublingual immunotherapy, which is both legal and highly common. Most physicians prescribe drugs in an off-label manner today, for example, the use of blood pressure medications for migraines, montelukasts for COPD, or arthritis drugs to treat shingles. Multiple antigen therapies for both injection and sublingual use are also an off-label use of FDA-approved biologics.
Why don’t more patients receive allergy drops if they’re so effective?
Allergy drops are widely accepted as an effective treatment throughout the world. That acceptance is growing in the United States as the treatment becomes more widely available and providers are better educated about its benefits. As industry leaders, we have dedicated our efforts to helping both providers and allergy sufferers understand the benefits and options for custom, precise disease-modifying treatment.