Sublingual Oral Immunotherapy
What is sublingual immunotherapy?
Oral Immunotherapy is used to treat the cause of someone’s allergies by giving small doses of the allergen in order to increase tolerance or “immunity.” Sublingual oral immunotherapy (SLIT) is when we try to desensitize someone’s allergies by using sublingual allergy drops under their tongue. This method replaces traditional allergy shots. Instead of simply treating symptoms, immunotherapy treats the actual cause of the allergy itself.
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Hootan Zandifar, MD, FACS, Board Certified Facial Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeon
How does the process work?
The first step in the sublingual immunotherapy process is to perform allergy testing in order to confirm the specific allergens you are sensitive to. After this, an allergen extract is prepared that is tailor-made to your specific allergies. The treatment is administered at home with daily sublingual allergy drops under the tongue.
Is Sublingual Immunotherapy Effective and Safe?
Yes, it is very effective. Research has shown the success rate percentage of SLIT to be in the high 80s and low 90s. SLIT is also very safe for both adults and children. While there is a theoretical risk of a severe allergic reaction, allergen drops have a much lower risk of this than allergy shots. Your first treatment will typically be given in the office in case of a severe reaction. After the first treatment, you will be instructed on how to administer at home and what to do if you have an adverse reaction. There is a risk of developing a swallowing condition called eosinophilic esophagitis with SLIT, and if you have previously been diagnosed with this condition then, unfortunately, you are not a candidate for SLIT.
How long does sublingual immunotherapy take to work?
Usually, within the first six months, patients begin to notice improvement, however, to ensure success typical treatments last for approximately three years, with some patients needing SLIT for longer. Depending on your allergy, you make use of the allergen drops year-round or before and during a specific allergy season. For example, SLIT for dust mites is taken year-round since they are around all the time.
What kind of allergies can sublingual immunotherapy treat?
There are a variety of sublingual allergies that can be treated with SLIT. Anyone suffering from environmental allergies would be a good candidate and benefit from SLIT. Allergens that can be treated with SLIT include:
- Cat and dog dander
- Various grasses and weeds, including ragweed
- Dust mites
- Molds and fungi
Initially, SLIT was only used for environmental allergies such as the ones listed above. However, there has been increasing research done using SLIT for certain food allergies. In fact, some studies have shown that for peanuts, in particular, SLIT increases tolerance with fewer, and less severe, side effects than other treatments. In addition to peanuts, other foods have been shown to respond to SLIT and research is ongoing.
What are the costs?
SLIT is not covered by insurance, however, the typical cost is usually less than $100 a month. When compared to the cost of allergy shots, SLIT is generally a more economical choice for most patients.
Schedule Your Consultation
If you are one of the millions of people who suffer from environmental allergies, sublingual immunotherapy could potentially give you substantial relief. Board-certified in Otolaryngology, Dr. Zandifar can evaluate you and determine if SLIT is a good option for you. Both he and his staff provide individualized care in a comfortable, relaxing environment. Zandifar MD has two convenient office locations. One in Beverly Hills and the other in Santa Monica serving Los Angeles. Schedule a consultation and get started towards finding relief from your allergies.