Wish there was a magic formula that could make your allergies go away? While no medication can completely erase your immune system's response to allergens, a form of treatment called sublingual immunotherapy may provide some welcome relief.

Sublingual immunotherapy is available as tablets or drops that you place under your tongue to build up your body's tolerance to allergens. The treatment works in the same way as allergy injections, except you can take the allergy drops yourself, making it much more convenient.

How Sublingual Immunotherapy Works

Most patients use sublingual immunotherapy on a daily basis, starting with a formula that contains very small doses of their allergens and working up to larger amounts as their immune system gains an increased tolerance. Once the maximum amount is reached, this maintenance dosage is usually continued for three to five years to achieve optimal results.

The Research on Sublingual Immunotherapy

While the concept of immunotherapy tablets or drops holds much promise, the exact dosage recommended and effectiveness of this method has been a topic of debate in recent medical journals.

For instance, some studies reported that patients experienced similar relief from sublingual immunotherapy tablets as they did from allergy injections, while others cited that it was less effective. In addition, some researchers raise the concern that sublingual immunotherapy can put a patient at risk for developing new sensitivities, which is also a possibility with injection immunotherapy. And if a reaction were to occur with sublingual immunotherapy, the patient wouldn't be in a supervised medical setting.

However, a review of 60 studies published in the March 2011 journal Allergy concludes that this method is safe and effective.

Weighing the Cost

If you're considering this option, you may be interested to know that the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends sublingual immunotherapy as a viable approach to treating persistent allergies, and this method is popular in Europe and other countries. Nonetheless, sublingual immunotherapy hasn't yet received formal approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), although it's available in investigative form in the United States.  The downside is that without FDA approval, most insurance companies won't cover the procedure. So if you want to try sublingual immunotherapy, you'll probably have to pay out of pocket. Some allergists estimate the cost to be approximately $1.50 per day.

Keep in mind that when you compare this to the price of your allergy medications and the reduced productivity you probably experience at times due to your allergy symptoms, you may find sublingual immunotherapy to be a convenient and cost-effective health strategy.




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