SLIT is an acronym for Sublingual Immunotherapy. The medical treatment is an alternative to taking allergy shots. Instead, patients suffering from allergies take liquid drops containing a small amount of antigen extracts that would normally cause an allergic reaction.
In time, the B-cells and T-cells of the immune system builds a tolerance to that particular antigen and no longer view the antigen as a threat. European physicians have used the form of allergy treatment for years. However, interest in this type of therapy has only gained attention in the United States in recent years.
Sublingual Immunotherapy Treatment
In order for allergy sufferers to get sublingual immunotherapy, they must undergo evaluation by an allergist.
Allergy testing reveals the type of antigens that cause an allergic reaction for each individual. Allergy drops are then created using extracts of those antigens. The treatment involves putting the designated number of drops under the tongue for one or two minutes. The liquid is then swallowed.
After the initial treatment, the patient is assessed for adverse reactions. If none occur, the patient then takes the drops at home anywhere from three to seven times each week. The therapy continues for three to five years.
SLIT Safety and Effectiveness
In clinical trials that spanned two decades, studies indicated that SLIT is safe and effective for reducing or preventing asthma, eczema and rhinitis caused by:
- Cat dander
- Dust mites
- Tree pollen
Ongoing research suggests that sublingual immunotherapy might also be effective for eliminating symptoms associated food allergies. In the scientific studies performed, research participants experienced a 42 percent reduction in allergy symptoms. The need for allergy medications was reduced by 43 percent.
None of the study volunteers experienced severe adverse reactions or anaphylaxis. Once the studies concluded and the treatments were stopped, the allergy symptom relief continued for up to three years.
The level of effectiveness also depends on the type of antigen, the frequency of taking the drops and the drop dosage. Physicians can create drops that address allergies to multiple allergens.
In general, possible side effects experienced by children and adults develop during the early stages of treatment. Potential reactions include oral itching or abdominal discomfort. However, adjusting the drop dosage typically alleviates further symptoms.
Possible Risks of SLIT
Although considered rare, the possibility of having an adverse reaction to the drops may occur.
As children and adults take the drops at home without medical supervision, parents and patients must have clear guidelines as to the interventions they must take in the event of a severe allergic reaction. The knowledge includes when to seek medical intervention.