Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is sublingual immunotherapy?
Unlike most allergy drugs—which treat only symptoms—sublingual immunotherapy addresses the underlying causes of allergies. Allergy drops are taken in gradually increasing doses until the patient develops a tolerance to the allergy-causing substance. Learn more about sublingual immunotherapy.
What is an antigen?
An antigen is an allergy-causing substance. Examples include dust, pollen, mold, insect venom and specific foods such as fish, wheat, corn and eggs.
What kind of allergies can be treated with allergy drops?
The benefit of sublingual immunotherapy is that a broad range of allergies, including those caused by dust mites, pollen, mold, animals, foods and chemicals can be treated. See Treating Conditions for more information.
Who should take allergy drops?
Although most allergy sufferers can benefit from allergy drops, they're especially ideal for people who can't tolerate or don't respond to allergy shots, as well as people who are unable to commit to allergy shot therapy. These people include:
- Infants and children*
- Highly sensitive people
- Those with chronic conditions including sinusitis
- People with food and mold allergies
- People with multiple allergies including dust, pollen, animals
*Allergy drops have proven especially helpful for children with eczema and recurrent ear infections, which often have underlying allergic causes. Research shows that many children with untreated eczema and allergies often develop asthma and other chronic conditions later in life, so treating them early can have life-long benefits and may prevent development of other allergies.
Are allergy drops safe? Is there research validating their effectiveness?
Allergy drops have been used around the world for more than 60 years, and numerous studies validate both its safety and effectiveness. In fact, the World Health Organization has endorsed sublingual immunotherapy as a viable alternative to injection therapy. The Cochrane Collaboration, the world's most-trusted international organization dedicated to reviewing healthcare treatments, recently concluded that allergy drop immunotherapy significantly reduced allergy symptoms and medication use. See our bibliography for more information about research studies.
What are the advantages of allergy drops?
In addition to being able to treat patients of all ages safely and effectively, there are other advantages to allergy drops.
- Lower cost, fewer clinic visits. Compared to shots, allergy drops cost less and require fewer clinic visits. Most patients receiving allergy drops need only a few clinic visits the first year, and once every 6-12 months thereafter until visits are no longer needed.
- More convenient. You can take allergy drops at home or wherever you need to be, making it much easier to stay with your treatment.
- Less medication. Our patients report, and research confirms, that they typically need less medication to control symptoms after beginning allergy drops.
- Enjoy healthier days. The end benefit? Feeling better. Patients typically report fewer clinic visits, hospitalizations, and less lost time from work and school after taking drops consistently.
Will my medical insurance cover the costs?
Insurance companies may cover the cost of the office visit and diagnostic testing. However, because allergy drops are an off-label use, they are not covered by insurance. Allergy drops do qualify for HSA or Flex Spending reimbursement. Most patients agree that the investment in allergy drops is well worth the lasting results and improvement in their quality of life, and the monthly costs are typically comparable to costs incurred from prescription and injection immunotherapy co-pays. Assess your costs of care with our calculator tool.
I've heard that allergy drops are not approved by the FDA. Is that safe?
First, it's important to understand that the antigens used in allergy drops are the same physician prescribed antigens used in allergy shots. They're also prepared in the same way as allergy shots. The difference is the route of administration—a dispenser that delivers the antigen under the tongue versus a syringe injecting antigen into tissue.
Currently, antigens are labeled by the FDA for use through injections. Using them for sublingual immunotherapy is an off-label use of an FDA -approved biologic, which is both legal and highly common. Most physicians prescribe "off-label" use of a myriad of drugs today, for example, the use of blood pressure medications for migraines, aspirin for heart conditions, or the use of arthritis drugs for the treatment of shingles.
Why don't more patients receive allergy drops if they're so effective?
Allergy drops are widely accepted as an effective treatment throughout the world. In fact, 50-75 percent of allergy sufferers in southern Europe are treated with allergy drops. That acceptance is growing throughout the world, and is beginning to grow in the United States as the treatment becomes more widely available.
What are the ingredients?
Each prescription is a custom solution for each patient according to the type and severity of allergy. Drop prescriptions contain concentrates of the allergen the patient is found to be allergic to upon testing. Typically, the antigens are put into a glycerin solution for stability. There are no additional preservatives added.
How long will I need to take my drops?
Most patients take allergy drops each day for three to five years, but it varies according to the severity of their allergies, seasonality, and how compliant they are with treatment. Many patients can begin to see symptom improvement within a few weeks to months.
How long can I expect the effects of allergy drops to last?
A benefit of immunotherapy—whether allergy shots or allergy drops—is that it can alter the course of allergic disease by treating the root cause, not just the symptoms. Once a tolerance is built, it can be permanent for many patients. Key studies have already been conducted to explore the long-lasting effect of allergy drops, including a 10-year study on children with asthma that demonstrated drops maintained effectiveness long after treatment stopped.
But even the best treatments won't work if you don't stay with them. Like allergy shot treatment, it's important to stay with allergy drop treatment until your doctor has determined treatment can be discontinued to give you the best chance of long-term effectiveness.