Specific immunotherapy refers to allergy treatment with the specific allergens causing the allergic reaction. This form of treatment is recommended for patients with moderate to severe symptoms not well controlled with antihistamine and nasal steroids. This may be true especially if multiple pollen seasons are involved or allergens cannot be avoided (such as mold and dustmites).
Immunotherapy is available in two forms:
Initially weekly with low dose in the build up phase and eventually every 2-3 weeks in the maintenance phase. Treatment is for approximately 5 years. Side effects include swelling and itching at the injection site and may cause anaphylaxis.
Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT)
- Allergy tablets to be dissolved under the tongue. At present only grass and ragweed available (others may follow).
- Allergy drops used under the tongue in a similar fashion but can be customized to reflect the patient’s allergies.
- Side effects include itching of the mouth. Generalized allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) is rare.
- SLIT is very safe and has been used in Europe for more than 25 years.
- Mechanism of action is the same as traditional allergy injections.
SLIT therapy is administered at home, does not require injections, is portable and safe. Patients who prefer SLIT may include those who wish to avoid travel to medical office for injections, those who travel out of the area frequently or whose work schedule does not permit frequent injections.
Beneficial Effect Of Specific Immunotherapy
- Reduces the severity of allergic symptoms over time and also reduces the amount of medications required for relief of allergies.
- Improves the symptoms of asthma.
- In allergic children early specific immunotherapy by injections or sublingual treatment prevent the development of new allergies and also the development of asthma.