Understanding Immunotherapy: A Sublingual Approach 

Sublingual immunotherapy, also known as SLIT, is a unique and practical approach to treating allergies. It involves administering medication in the form of a tablet under the tongue, which slowly dissolves and is absorbed into the bloodstream. 

This innovative treatment method has been gaining popularity in recent years, particularly for children and those who prefer not to receive allergy shots or injections. In this approach, allergen extracts help desensitize the immune system and reduce the allergic reaction. 

It is a safe and effective way to treat allergies and can be used to address multiple allergies, including those to dust mites and certain northern pasture grasses. If you’re considering sublingual immunotherapy for you or your child, talk to your healthcare provider to determine if it fits your needs. 

A woman is understanding the benefits of sublingual immunotherapy while holding a cup of tea.

What is Allergy Immunotherapy?

Allergy immunotherapy (AIT), commonly called allergy shots, is a treatment designed to diminish an allergic reaction to specific allergens. When your child experiences an allergy, their body triggers a response to a foreign substance called an allergen. 

Our bodies naturally produce antibodies, which are responsible for recognizing and protecting us against harmful substances. The allergen, such as pet dander, bee venom, or pollen, isn’t necessarily dangerous, but your child’s body flags it as such.

Your child may experience various symptoms, from a runny nose to a scratchy throat. In mild cases, the allergic symptoms are nothing more than mild discomfort. However, in severe cases, the allergic reaction can cause anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially life-threatening condition. 

These allergies can cause your child to experience discomfort throughout their daily life, preventing them from enjoying specific experiences, like playing with the family’s dog or frolicking outside. This is where allergy immunotherapy comes in. 

Allergy immunotherapy helps “train” the body not to react aggressively to the allergen by reducing the production of the “blocking” antibody that creates the symptoms. The dosage starts small but incrementally increases over time, slowly decreasing the reaction. 

Every person is different in how their body reacts to the treatment, but most people begin to see the effects of it within the first year. However, the best results often appear within years one through three, so this treatment requires a long-term commitment. 

Types of Allergy Immunotherapy

Allergy immunotherapy is often used interchangeably with allergy shots. While allergy shots are a type of immunotherapy, not all allergy immunotherapy is administered in the injectable form. There are two types of allergy immunotherapy: subcutaneous and sublingual. 

Subcutaneous or under the skin, immunotherapy is administered by an injectable shot. Sublingual allergy treatment refers to treatment administered under the tongue, often in tablet form. 

Understanding Sublingual Immunotherapy

Sublingual immunotherapy for allergies is a popular alternative to subcutaneous immunotherapy, particularly for those who don’t like needles. With sublingual immunotherapy,  your child won’t need to endure frequent injections. Instead, administering treatment is as simple as consuming the dosage by mouth. 

This form of treatment is administered under the tongue, usually in the form of a tablet. While you may see allergy drops, tablets are the only type of sublingual immunotherapy the FDA has approved. Options for this type of treatment are limited, as tablets are only currently available for ragweed, dust mites, and certain types of northern pasture grasses like timothy. 

Researchers are continually working on creating tablets to create different types of allergies, but as of now, the options are limited. The current allergy sublingual immunotherapy tablets can be incredibly effective for addressing those specific allergies. 

To administer the tablet, simply have your child place it under their tongue. Wait one to two minutes for the tablet to dissolve, then have your child swallow the remnants. 

Repeat the process as directed by your healthcare provider. In some cases, you may need to administer the tablet more frequently, sometimes as often as seven days per week. Over time, the tablets will work to increase your child’s tolerance to the allergen and reduce their symptoms. 

Closing Thoughts

Sublingual immunotherapy can be an excellent way to treat allergies, particularly for those who prefer not to receive allergy shots or injections. It is a unique and innovative approach that involves administering medication in the form of a tablet under the tongue. Like the go-to injectable approach, this method helps desensitize the immune system and reduce the allergic reaction. 

While the options for sublingual immunotherapy are currently limited, the tablets available for specific allergies can be incredibly effective. If you are considering sublingual immunotherapy for yourself or your child, be sure to consult with your healthcare provider to determine if this treatment is right for you.

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