Immunotherapy is a blanket term for long-term allergy treatment that reduces symptoms over time by decreasing your sensitivity to allergens. There are traditionally two forms of immunotherapy: allergy shots and sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT), also called allergy drops. We compare the two below so you can make the best treatment decision for you or your child.
How Does Immunotherapy Work?
Whether you get allergy shots or drops, the principles are the same. Immunotherapy works like a vaccine in that small amounts of an allergen are administered in gradually increasing doses. This helps your body build a tolerance against the allergen.
Allergy shots are administered in two phases:
- Build-up phase. During this phase, increasingly larger amounts of allergens are administered by a physician once or twice per week. This period ranges three to six months, though the duration depends on how well your body tolerates the injections.
- Maintenance phase. Once you reach an effective dose, shots are administered less frequently, usually every two to four weeks. This phase lasts three to five years. The frequency and duration depend on how well your body tolerates the dosage as well as the severity of your symptoms.
It’s possible that you’ll experience milder symptoms starting in the build-up phase, but it could take as long as 12 months to notice a difference.
Allergy drops are an effective alternative to allergy shots and available in both liquid and tablet form; however, only tablet forms have currently been approved by the FDA. Liquid drops are still being reviewed for safety and efficacy but are available in some doctors’ offices as off-label drugs. So far, the FDA has approved tablets for treating ragweed, dust mites, Timothy grass and several other grass species.
In most cases, allergy drops are taken three to seven days per week for about three years. For seasonal allergies, drops only need to be taken before and during springtime, but for year-round allergies like dust mites they are taken continuously throughout the year.
Symptoms should begin to improve within a few months, but significant benefit takes at least a year. By the fourth year, symptoms should be gone or minimal. If you’re ready to treat your allergy symptoms so you can enjoy spending time at Atlanta Memorial Park, schedule an appointment with one of our expert allergists today.