Are allergy drops right for you?
Seasonal allergies (sometimes called hay fever) are caused by an allergic reaction to pollen from certain plants, like ragweed. In fact, you may suffer from allergy symptoms throughout the year due to exposure to mold, dust mites, and dander from certain animals (like cats and dogs.) If you suffer from these allergy symptoms, you may need immunotherapy treatment to strengthen your immune system.
Most doctors offer allergy treatment in the form of shots but Dr. Caballero, an allergy specialist at at the Advanced Sinus and Allergy Center, can treat your allergic rhinitis with allergy drops. Allergy drops, also known as sublingual immunotherapy, can be a convenient alternative for people who…
- Don't like shots
- Don't have time for extra doctors appointments
- Like to manage their own care in the convenience of their own home or while traveling.
- Are worried serious side effects
Benefits of allergy drops
No one really likes to get a shot so the primary benefit of allergy drops is that no injections are required. Instead, the allergens are administered in a concentrated solution that you place under your tongue.
Besides being uncomfortable, shots are also inconvenient. You have to visit the doctor every few weeks or months for 3 to 5 years! On the other hand, you only have to see the doctor every few months to pick up a fresh supply of allergy drops.
Since you administer the allergy drops yourself, you can pick the time and place. The process is so easy that you can take them in the comfort of your own home, while you’re at work, or even while traveling.
Finally, allergy drops are less likely to produce serious side effects compared to shots. Shots can cause itching, swelling, and redness at the injection site as well as heartache, coughing, sneezing, and fatigue. Most importantly, shots are 10 times more likely to cause anaphylaxis, a potentially life threatening complication.
The primary side effect of drops, such as an itchy mouth, tend to be very mild if and when they occur. In rare causes (about 1 in every 12,000 doses) drops can cause lip, tongue and mouth irritation, nausea and related symptoms, and skin reactions like hives. Just to be safe, Dr. Caballero will administer your first treatment in the office so she can monitor you for any adverse effects.
Testing for allergies
For your first appointment please allow approximately 30 minutes. During this consultation, Dr. Caballero will determine which allergens, if any, your body responds to. Typically this is proven by a simple blood test. Advanced Sinus and Allergy Center has a full-time phlebotomist on staff so we’re able to offer same day blood testing. You’ll never have to wait or make to make a separate appointment at an outside lab. In certain cases allergens may be determined by doing a skin prick test. Dr. Caballero will assess which testing methodology is best for your individual case.
Blood test results are available within 2 - 3 days. Dr. Caballero will use these results to determine what you are allergic to and the degree of your sensitivity. Based on this data she will preparing a mixture of the allergens at a low concentration that will trigger a mild immune response. The allergens are compounded in a liquid that can easily be dispensed as drops. The liquid is stored in tiny vials that are easily transported. Depending on the number of allergens you react to, you may have 1 to 4 number of vials.
Taking your first dose of allergy drops
When your immunotherapy vials are ready, the office will contact you to schedule your next appointment which will require approximately 45 to 1.5 hours (about 30 minutes for each vial.)
Once you’re in the office the process is very fast and easy: the doctor will use an eye dropper to place several drops under your tongue. They are prepared in a glycerin base so they have a mild, sweet taste. You hold the drops in your mouth for about a minute before swallowing as usual.
Dr. Caballero will monitor you in the office for about 30 minutes to check for signs of any adverse reactions. After this first application, you’ll be able to take a set of vials home and give the drops to yourself at anytime and place that is convenient for you.
Treating yourself at home
Treating yourself at home, at work, or while you travel is just as easy as the taking the first dose of drops at the doctor’s office. The vials are small and easy to transport. They contain less than 3 ounces so they meet the TSA’s requirements for carry on baggage if you are flying. They do not require any refrigeration because the glycerin base acts as a preservative to prevent the growth of any mold or bacteria. All you have to do is place the designated number of drops under your tongue and wait about a minute before swallowing. See below for a number of common questions about sublingual immunotherapy drops.
Frequently asked questions about allergy drops
Do I have to take the drops at a certain time of day?
You should try to take the drops at approximately the same time everyday but you can pick anytime that’s convenient for your schedule.
Can I take the drops on empty stomach? Or right after a big meal?
Yes, the drops will be effective regardless of whether or not you’ve had a recent meal.
What do I do if I miss a dose?
Just resume your normal dosage the next day. Do NOT take double the number of drops if you accidentally skip a day.
Does anything interfere with the drops like alcohol or food?
No. There are no dietary restrictions associated with sublingual immunotherapy drops so you can have any food or beverage that you would like.
How long do I have wait to eat or drink before taking the drops?
You should avoid eating or drinking anything for at least 5 minutes after taking the drops. This time allows for additional absorption of the drops.
Do the vials have to be refrigerated? Do they have any special storage requirements?
No and this is one of the big advantage of drops. Since the vials don’t have to be stored in the refrigerator many people keep the vials in their bathroom as a reminder to take them regularly.
However, it’s wise to avoid exposure to temperature extremes. Avoid leaving the vials in direct sunlight for prolonged length of time and do not freeze.
Can I take the drops right before or after I brush my teeth or gargle or floss?
You should avoid brushing your teeth or using any oral care products for at least 5 minutes after taking the drops.
What do SLIT drops taste like?
The drops have a slightly sweet taste because of the glycerin base. Most people find that they are not unpleasant at all.
Your initial vial of drops with a lower concentration of allergens will last for 5 days. The second vial which contains a higher concentration will last for approximately 6 weeks. After you've finished these two vials you will need to stop by the office to pick up a fresh supply of allergy drops approximately every 6 weeks. No appointment is necessary but we recommend that you call ahead to ensure the drops are ready. (This is much more convenient than allergy shots which require you to schedule an appointment with the doctor each time you need a new shot.)
Completing your treatment
Depending on the specific allergens which your body reacts to and the speed with which your immune system responds, your allergy drop treatment may continue for 3 to 5 years. Over time Dr. Caballero will monitor your progress and ultimately you will be allergy free.
Allergy drops are a convenient alternative for many people. Dr. Caballero will advise you on the pros and cons of each alternative but ultimately the choice of treatment is up to depending on your your preferences and lifestyle. Regardless of the method of application, immunotherapy will provide relief from your allergy symptoms and allow you to breathe better so you can enjoy life again.
To learn more
Please call for a sublingual immunotherapy consultation with Dr. Caballero at Advanced Sinus and Allergy Center. (847-655-7442)