Immunotherapy is a preventive treatment for allergic reactions to substances such as grass pollens, house dust mites and bee venom. Immunotherapy involves giving gradually increasing doses of the substance, or allergen, to which the person is allergic. The incremental increases of the allergen cause the immune system to become less sensitive to the substance, probably by causing production of a “blocking” antibody, which reduces the symptoms of allergy when the substances is encountered in the future. Immunotherapy also reduces the inflammation that characterizes rhinitis and asthma.
Before starting treatment, the physician and patient identify trigger factors for allergy symptoms. Skin or sometimes blood tests are performed to confirm the specific allergens to which the person has antibodies. Immunotherapy is usually recommended only if the person seems to be selectively sensitive to several allergens.
Westside Head & Neck offers two forms of immunotherapy for our allergy patients: Allergy Shots & Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT)
An extract of a small amount of the allergen is injected into the skin of the arm. An injection may be given once a week (sometimes more often) for about 30 weeks, after which injections can be administered every two weeks. Eventually, injections can be given every four weeks. The duration of therapy may be three to five years, sometimes longer. Treatment plans and results vary per individual patient.
Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT)
Sublingual immunotherapyis an alternative way to treat allergies without injections. An allergist gives a patient small doses of an allergen under the tongue to boost tolerance to the substance and reduce symptoms.
An allergist must first use allergy testing to confirm the patients sensitivities. Once this is determined, an allergen extract is prepared in drop form and the patient is directed to keep it under the tongue for one to two minutes and then swallow it. The process is repeated from three days a week to as often as daily with recommendations that therapy is continued for three to five years to develop a lasting immunity.