By Taylor Pasell, Allergychoices
With 50-60 million people in the U.S. having allergy, only about five percent of them receive treatment that actually modifies the disease – the other 95% avoid, suffer, or take medication to temporarily relieve symptoms that don’t go away. A quick Google search will often advise that seeking immunotherapy treatment for allergy is only needed once you’ve reached the “last resort” of your suffering, for example:
- if you are severely allergic and can’t avoid the allergen
- if you have side effects from allergy medication
- if your asthma is worsening
- you experience symptoms for more than three months a year
- and so on
Dr. Vijay Sabnis, MD, partner at Allergy Associates of La Crosse and a contributing author to the La Crosse Method™ Protocol says sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) eliminates the negative factors of injection immunotherapy. So with SLIT as an available option, “immunotherapy need not be the last resort.” Dr. Sabnis explains that, “The idea of injection immunotherapy as a last resort is something that was taught 25 years ago. But there is a wind of change. Sublingual immunotherapy is not the last resort; it can and should be the first.”
Origin of the myth
This myth is rooted historically in the process of injection immunotherapy. Because undertaking allergy shot treatment was often considered expensive and requiring a substantial commitment of time and effort, it’s often presented as the last step in an allergy treatment plan. Before other options were available, if treating the symptoms and avoiding the allergen weren’t effective, patients could commit to this injection treatment. Dr. Sabnis explains that because of the convenience of sublingual immunotherapy (also known as allergy drops), more patients can consider it as a first line therapy.
“Now we have sublingual immunotherapy that is self-administered, that treats the root cause of the problem, modifies the course of the disease, is cost effective, gives good results and is safe. Patients don’t have to keep popping medication every day indefinitely,” Dr. Sabnis explains. With allergy drops, patients administer individually tailored liquid allergy drops under the tongue three times daily, requiring the convenience of fewer office visits and reduced costs.
Allergy drop treatment is fairly new to the general population, with popularity increasing over the last 40-50 years. Still many patients and providers aren’t aware that it’s a treatment option. “Sometimes general practitioners are not aware of it because SLIT is not yet taught to the extent that it will likely be,” Sabnis explains, “More practitioners are learning how sublingual immunotherapy works.”
The FDA’s recent approval of sublingual allergy tablets validates the (under the tongue) mechanism, but tablets only treat one allergen at a time, for grass, for ragweed, dust mite, for example. With custom drops, multiple allergens can be treated simultaneously to bring the total allergic load down faster. After approving sublingual tablets for allergy treatment, the FDA may eventually approve this mode of treating with multiple allergens, though it has not yet done so.
Having a safe, affordable, and convenient option that can address the root cause of allergy can help reduce years of unnecessary suffering, which is why Allergychoices was founded in 2000 to share information with allergy providers and patients about this option. By utilizing immunotherapy, you treat the root cause of the problem. You activate special dendritic cells that induce tolerance or immunity in the system, not just a temporary “bandage.”
In an era where controlling costs and looking at ways to help the body heal itself are top of mind, many patients are finding that the timing for this treatment option couldn’t be more welcome.
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