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With spring fast approaching, you may already be dreading another season of suffering with allergies. You may have wondered about sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) or allergy drops, an alternative for allergy sufferers who cannot or do not want to take allergy shots. I recently investigated this treatment for myself and found there are pros and cons.
What is SLIT?
SLIT is a type of immunotherapy that treats allergies by administering small doses of the substances the patient is allergic to in gradually increasing dosages until the patient builds immunity to them. Allergy shots or injections were the main method of immunotherapy in the past. Now, an allergy sufferer has the option of choosing sublingual immunotherapy where drops are placed under the tongue.
What are the advantages of SLIT?
Sublingual drops can be administered at home in contrast to allergy shots that require a weekly trip to the doctorís office, sometimes for years, where the patient is monitored for possible adverse reactions for 30 minutes following the injection. The SLIT approach is more convenient because no travel or waiting in a doctorís office is involved.
SLIT can be done at home because it is less likely to produce adverse reactions requiring medical intervention. The therapy is easy to do and patients who travel often can continue their treatment while on the road.
SLIT also offers a good alternative for patients who have a fear of needles and shots.
SLIT can be given to patients with severe allergies who are often sick with chronic sinus infections, ear infections and colds. These patients can continue their therapy regardless of being sick. Babies who are too young for shots also may be given drops.
SLIT is considered safe, according to many clinical studies. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not given their blessing to this approach. As a result, SLIT is considered to be off-label.
Disadvantages of SLIT
The biggest disadvantage of SLIT is that insurance plans will not cover it because the FDA calls it off-label. The out-of-pocket cost of sublingual immunotherapy can be considerable and depends on the length of treatment necessary and the number of vials needed to treat all of the patientís allergies.
However, when evaluating the cost, one needs to factor in the cost of traveling to a doctor's office weekly.
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