For years, the treatment of allergies to pollen, dust, and mold has meant avoidance, drugs like steroid sprays and oral antihistamines, and painful and inconvenient allergy shots.
Avoidance techniques might include keeping the windows closed, running the A/C more than usual, keeping the house extra clean, getting rid of the dog or cat or at least keeping it out of your bedroom, giving up your houseplants, or putting special covers over your pillows and mattress.
Drug options have included nasal sprays of various kinds, eyedrops, pills that can make you drowsy, or drugs that require a prescription and visits to the doctor. And finally, to really hit your allergies hard to get rid of them, there are weekly allergy shots requiring driving to an allergist’s office, getting a shot, waiting awhile to ensure no reaction, and then driving back home.
Well, all of those could become a thing of the past with the use of a technique that is new to this country, but has been around for decades in Europe. In fact, the World Health Organization included this method in its allergy treatment guidelines all the way back in the early 1980’s. And since that time there have been over 60 scientific studies on this method. This unique and effective method is called SLIT. SLIT stands for SubLingual ImmunoTherapy.
So exactly what is SLIT? As the name (sublingual) suggests, the treatment involves putting something under your tongue. That something is a couple drops of liquid containing tiny amounts of the substances (called allergens) that the patient is allergic to (which was figured out by skin testing or blood testing). By doing this, the immune system is stimulated a little bit, and over time, the body becomes desensitized (more tolerant) to the allergen.
When starting out on SLIT, tiny concentrations of the allergens are used, and then the drops are gradually increased to stronger concentrations. Over time, usually within 6-12 months, reactivity to the selected pollens, dust mite feces, pet dander, or mold spores is dramatically reduced.
Here are the cool things about SLIT compared to regular allergy shots:
• no pain, safer (much less chance of reactions)
• equally effective, and cheaper
• many fewer trips to the doctor’s office which saves a ton of your time.
The cost of drops is similar to a morning trip to Starbucks or McDonalds and much less than lunch at Five Guys, to put it all in perspective. And the ultimate pleasure and benefit you get (relief from those extremely annoying and sometimes life-threatening allergies) is way more.
We’ve known about this amazing treatment since the 1980’s. So what has taken us (the U.S.) so long? I’m not totally sure. Maybe that could be a blog topic for another day. All I can say for now is that for some reason, the Europeans seem to be further ahead of the U.S. lots of times when it comes to healthcare.
At Advanced Integrative Healthcare, we strive to give our patients advanced therapies – not just the run-of-mill options you can get anywhere. Sublingual Immunotherapy is one of those therapies. And we have been doing this for over two years, and the results have been very gratifying.
Dr. William Epperly, Fellow American Academy of Family Practice
Fellow American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy
Member of Christian Medical and Dental Society