♦ Why take a medical history?
An individual’s medical history is as important as the results of an allergy test. Medical history is the critical link between allergy test results and allergic disease itself.
Allergy skin testing is the gold standard and is used along with the medical history to establish a diagnosis. Skin allergy tests can detect a patient’s sensitivity to common inhalants like pollen and dust mites. Generally, skin testing is the most accurate and preferred method. Allergy blood tests may be ordered in certain specific situations, such as severe skin rashes, or if it is impossible to stop a medication that interferes with the interpretation of the skin test.
♦ How often and for how long do I have to take allergy shots?
It usually takes several months to climb through the dilutions before reaching a maintenance dose. While you are climbing, you will need to take the shots at a minimum once a week. Most patients are on a once a week schedule for one year, every other week for one year, every three weeks for a year and once a month for one year after which the patient can usually stop. Most patients stop their shots after 4-5 years, although some patients continue allergy shots for a longer period of time.
♦ How long before I notice improvement with allergy shots?
Most patients do not notice immediate improvement with shots until 6 or 9 months of consistent therapy. There are some patients who notice results earlier, but that is not usual. Since the shots do not work right away, it will be important for you to be on a daily routine of medicines to help control your symptoms until the allergy shots take effect. After the shots begin to alleviate your symptoms, we will gradually diminish your medications. After the first year, most people notice significant improvement. Over the next several years patients will continue to improve.
♦ Why does it take so long for allergy shots to begin working?
Allergy shots teach your immune system to better tolerate the allergens with which you come into contact. Through repeated exposures to the antigens in your allergy extract, your body learns how to properly process the antigens. It usually takes a year or more to change your body’s response to the allergens. Once this progression is achieved, patients typically have a better quality of life without shots or medication for their allergies.
♦ Why do I have two shots instead of one?
We can only safely add a set number of antigens to your vials. If the number of things you are allergic to exceeds that amount we’ll have to split your shots into two vials. This is common.
♦ Is Sublingual Immunotherapy approved by the FDA?
Allergy drops are mixed from the exact same FDA-approved natural allergen extracts as allergy shots, but are used in a method (under the tongue) that is considered “off-label” by the FDA. Sublingual drops have been the favored route of allergy immunotherapy in Europe for decades. SLIT’s safety and efficacy has been proven by scores of research studies and hundreds of thousands of successfully treated patients in the U.S. and abroad.
♦ Is Sublingual Immunotherapy covered by insurance?
While most plans offer benefits for allergy shots, sublingual immunotherapy is not covered by insurance. With SLIT, there are no allergy shot co-pays and no repeat trips to the office to get those shots. SLIT’s out-of-pocket expenses are usually made up for in convenience (fewer work hours missed, no transportation costs, etc.).
♦ Are allergy shots safe? Is there research validating their effectiveness?
Allergy drops have been used Europe for more than 60 years, and numerous studies validate both the safety and effectiveness. The Cochrane Collaboration, one of the world’s most-trusted international organization’s dedicated to reviewing healthcare treatments, recently concluded allergy drop immunotherapy significantly reduced allergy symptoms and use of allergy medications.
♦ 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 your allergies and the seasonality. Many patients report improvement within a few months.
♦ Cost of Sublingual Immunotherapy
While the safety and effectiveness of allergy drops for immunotherapy has been proven in Europe, the FDA has yet to approve it in the United States. It is for this reason that SLIT treatment in the United States is considered “off-label” and why SLIT is not currently covered or reimbursed by health insurance plans.