Not all allergy sufferers benefit from medications such as antihistamines. These might provide temporary relief from symptoms, but are ineffective methods of long-term treatment. For these patients, another option called immunotherapy might be recommended. The goal of immunotherapy is to permanently reduce or eliminate allergy symptoms by introducing small amounts of the allergen into the body so it can build up a tolerance. There are two types of immunotherapy treatment: subcutaneous (SCIT) and sublingual (SLIT).
SCIT v. SLIT
Allergy testing is the first step in determining the allergens responsible for triggering symptoms. Once these are identified, an extract is administered through the skin or taken orally.
Subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT) is delivered via interjection. Commonly referred to as allergy shots, initial doses are small, and given once or twice a week. These are increased gradually until the patient receives what is referred to as a maintenance dose. At this point, shots are administered every two to four weeks for several months. Eventually, the frequency is reduced to monthly injections. Treatments continue from three to five years on average; by then, the body has hopefully built up immunity.
Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) is similar, but instead of shots, the extract is taken orally. It is usually placed under the tongue for several minutes until it dissolves, but in some cases, tablets are available. SLIT offers a couple of important advantages over SCIT: it can be self-administered at home, and side effects are less likely to occur. However, it is not yet FDA approved, meaning most insurance companies won’t cover the costs.
How Effective is Immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy is considered highly effective for treating many types of allergies including pollen, mold, pet dander and dust mites. It typically will not work for patients with food or drug allergies.
Call ENT Associates of East Texas at (903) 592-5601 for more information or to schedule an appointment.