Your immune system is a complex connection tasked with the responsibility of fighting infection and handling possible threats to the health and safety of the human body. It is a complex network that develops strengths, weaknesses, and specific reactions to chemical compounds and microorganisms.  An immune system can target and identify these substances or microorganisms and coordinate an effective response. This response is often a way to protect the body from the potential effects or side-effects from the substance or microorganism.

Sometimes, the immune system can get confused, as it works to identify different substances, and might actually create something called an allergy.

An allergy is the response of an immune system to a particular substance that the immune system considers dangerous and the resulting response can be something as simple as a little itchiness, to full on anaphylactic shock. However, some reactions are more subtle and mild, but can sometimes worsen over time. These immune system reactions are called allergic reactions and can be severe, even causing serious health issues or becoming life-threatening. The difficult part about allergens is that they could be common household substances that you are exposed to on a daily basis and aren’t aware of. It could include pet hair, dust, molds, pollen, cleaners, foods and even plants.

Fortunately, most allergic reactions to substances are minor. Some more serious reactions can lead to death if not treated immediately. There are possible methods to reducing the severity of an allergic reaction. Immunotherapy is the concept that is built around this idea. Traditional immunotherapy uses injections to expose the body to a small amount of the allergen and the immune system can pick up on the tiny amount, but does not react strongly because the amount of the allergen is so small. Injections can be expensive, time consuming, and traumatic for someone who is fearful of them. So, there is an alternate type of immunotherapy that does not require sharp needles: sublingual immunotherapy.

Sublingual immunotherapy uses drops that contain a small amount of the allergen and works in the same exact way that allergy shots work. These liquid drops or pellets are placed under the tongue and are absorbed into the body. The absorption is immediate and bypasses digestion, making it very effective.

This kind of treatment has many benefits over traditional immunotherapy.

1.       It is less painful
Sublingual immunotherapy does not require the use of needles, reducing the sensation of pain from the injection. And for patients who have a fear of needles, it lessens the anxiety and fear that come from using them.

2.       It’s cost effective
Under the careful guidance of your practitioner, sublingual immunotherapy can cost less. Injections require a trained person to administer them, usually in a hospital or medical facility. This requires you to travel. Taking drops under your tongue does not require the same level of travel, nor does it require the presence of a trained professional. In some cases, your practitioner will suggest a personalized or tailored version of the drops. For instance, if you are allergic to your pet’s hair dander, the droplets might contain the hair from your pet instead of a generic version.

3.       Liquid and pellets are available
Sublingual administration of immunotherapy can also be through pellets. One such example of using tablets to treat allergies was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on April, 2016. The study, titled Efficacy of a House Dust Mite Sublingual Allergen Immunotherapy Tablet in Adults With Allergic Asthma, focused on reducing the impacts of an allergic reaction to house dust mite through sublingual immunotherapy. The study authors found that the treatment improves the allergy to house dust mite, further research is needed for safety and efficacy.

The positive benefit to treating allergies is that there are proactive ways to improving our immune systems. Immunotherapy is one of them. The idea of small exposures to allergens can be a little alarming, but with cautious planning and careful monitoring, allergies will improve over time. We have ben using this therapy in our office for 17 years and find it to be a safe, effective way of managing allergies.