It's been estimated that about 20% of the population has a fear of needles. And there's no denying that it causes some to avoid the doctor at all costs. If you suffer from allergies and need treatment, there's a new alternative in town that goes by the name of SLIT (Sublingual Immunotherapy). Read on to learn how to get relief without being poked.
How does SLIT work?
Once your allergies are known, special tablets can be formulated that contain extracts of your specific allergens. Just like with shots, the first dose will be lower, with a gradual increase in the allergens you are exposed to in order to allow your body's immune system to build up a tolerance.
Your first dose of sublingual immunotherapy will be given at the allergist's clinic so you can be monitored for a possible reaction.
What about sublingual drops?
If you've heard about drops being used instead of tablets, they're an option in cases in which your allergist may want to treat you for a broader range of allergies. They're not yet approved by the FDA, so they won't be covered by insurance. But your doctor may offer them to you as an alternative treatment if you've exhausted other possibilities.
Are there any advantages to SLIT besides avoiding needles?
Sublingual immunotherapy is a great choice for both adults and children who don't tolerate needles and have specific types of allergies. There are a few other advantages, too. Allergic reactions are less likely to occur, and after the first dose, you can take subsequent treatments at home, avoiding regular visits to the doctor's office.
Be aware, though, that your allergist will still want to see you on a routine basis to monitor the progression of your treatment, but you won't have to go to the office on a daily or weekly basis as you would with shots.
What can you do if sublingual immunotherapy doesn't work?
There is some evidence to show that shots are more effective than sublingual tablets and drops. But if you try SLIT and it doesn't work, does that mean you automatically have to try the shots in order to get relief?
Not necessarily. It's possible that your doctor will want to try a different brand of tablet or maybe increase the dose. Also, keep in mind that it can take 6-12 months for patients to see an improvement with shots, and treatments are expected to last 3-5 years. Sublingual therapy, while administered a little differently, can also take time to improve your symptoms.
If you don't feel like sublingual immunotherapy is helping with your allergies, it's important to discuss this with an allergist, such as at Mid America Ear, Nose, & Throat Clinic PC, so you can decide together how to progress.