Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- What is sublingual immunotherapy?
- What is an antigen?
- How do I know I am getting treatment customized for me?
- What kind of allergies can be treated with allergy drops?
- Who should take allergy drops?
- Are allergy drops safe? Is there research validating their effectiveness?
- What are the advantages of allergy drops?
- Will my medical insurance cover the costs?
- I’ve heard that allergy drops are not approved by the FDA. Is that safe?
- Why don’t more patients receive allergy drops if they’re so effective?
- What are the ingredients?
- How long will I need to take my drops?
- How long can I expect the effects of allergy drops to last?
What is sublingual immunotherapy?
Unlike most allergy drugs—which treat only symptoms—sublingual immunotherapy addresses the underlying causes of allergies. Allergy drops use the same FDA-approved antigens as allergy shots, but deliver them in a liquid form under the tongue to highly specialized cells. Drops are given in gradually increasing doses until the patient develops a tolerance to the allergy-causing substance. Learn more about sublingual immunotherapy.
How do I know I am getting treatment customized for me?
We provide tailored sublingual immunotherapy that is based on your specific allergens, and at your level of sensitivity – matching your allergic fingerprint. The La Crosse Method™ Protocol follows this philosophy. Treatment is matched to your testing, and gradually becomes stronger based on how you uniquely respond to treatment – it does not follow a cookie cutter formula that doesn’t take your individual response, lifestyle, and history into account. This precise approach helps ensure your treatment isn’t higher or lower than needed to respond. You can ask your provider if their approach follows this philosophy of treatment to be sure it is customized for you.
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 Allergy 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 100 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 allergy shots 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. In 2013, the Agency for Healthcare Quality Research published a review that examined studies which used both sublingual and subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shot) treatments. Reviewers found sufficient evidence to support the effectiveness and safety of subcutaneous and sublingual immunotherapy for the treatment of allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and asthma. Read more about research studies.
- Therapy treats the cause, not just temporary symptoms. The goal of allergy drops is to help you build long-term tolerance to your allergens so ongoing treatment and medication is no longer needed.
- 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 then once every 6-12 months until visits are no longer needed.
- More convenient. You can take allergy drops at home, school, or wherever you are, 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 of taking drops consistently? Feeling better. Patients typically report fewer clinic visits, hospitalizations, and less lost time from work and school.
Will my health 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 may not be covered by insurance, but check with your carrier to be sure.
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 comparable to costs incurred from prescription and injection immunotherapy co-pays.
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 FDA-approved, physician-prescribed antigens used in allergy shots. They’re also prepared 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. The FDA does not approve treatments, they approve products, so it’s highly unlikely that the FDA will ever “approve” multi-antigen immunotherapy.
Antigens are labeled by the FDA for single use through injections and some for sublingual immunotherapy. A number of FDA-approved biologics are considered off label use when delivered via sublingual immunotherapy, which is both legal and highly common. Most physicians prescribe drugs in an off-label manner today, for example, the use of blood pressure medications for migraines, montelukast for COPD, or arthritis drugs to treat shingles. Multiple antigen therapies for both injection and sublingual use are also an off-label use of FDA-approved biologics.
Why don’t more patients use allergy drops if they’re so effective?
Allergy drops are widely accepted as an effective treatment throughout the world. That acceptance is in the United States as the treatment becomes more widely available and providers are better educated about its benefits.
What are the ingredients?
We prepare a custom solution for each patient according to the type and severity of his or her allergy. Drops contain custom concentrates of the allergen(s) the patient is found to be allergic to upon testing. The antigens are put into a glycerin solution for stability. We do not add preservatives or other drugs/additives to the allergy drops.
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 well they adhere to treatment. Many patients begin to see symptoms improve within a few weeks to months but need to keep using the drops through the full course of therapy to get long-term benefit. Patients with severe food or mold allergies may need to continue treatment long-term to gain benefit.
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 tolerance is built, it can be permanent for many patients. Key studies have 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 it can be discontinued to give you the best chance of long-term effectiveness.