If you dislike those weekly or monthly allergy shots, but need the therapy to dry up your nose and watery eyes, Emory Crawford Long Hospital is one of the few places in metro Atlanta to now offer a new option -- self-administered, daily allergy drops given under the tongue.
"The new form of treatment is much more convenient for patients, equally effective and safer than receiving allergy injections," says Alpen Patel, MD, ENT allergist at the Emory Sinus, Nasal and Allergy Center at Emory Crawford Long Hospital and assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology, Emory University School of Medicine.
"Sublingual immunotherapy - or giving allergy drops under the tongue - has been practiced in Europe for 15 or more years, but has never been widely practiced in the U.S., simply because allergy shots are more common," says Dr. Patel. "We're now offering the drops to patients who've failed avoidance therapy and medical therapy, including over-the-counter medications and prescribed nasal sprays."
As with allergy shots, the allergy drops are not quick fixes. It still takes several months to build up immunity to the most common allergens (dust, pollen, mold, pets, etc.) before reaching a maintenance level. Once there, patients will take the drops for three -to five-years, as they would with allergy shots.
Patients taking the allergy drops will receive two vials of medication mixed to match that person's specific allergen sensitivities. Patients will start by taking one drop in the morning from one vial, and one drop in the evening from the second vial. Each vial consists of different allergens. Then over a three-month period, patients will advance to three drops of each vial a day (maintenance dose).
"We've found this method of delivering allergy medication to be just as effective as the shots, more convenient because patients can take the drops at home or while traveling, and it's safer," explains Dr. Patel. "Because the drops go under the tongue daily and are diluted by saliva, the body doesn't absorb as much systemically or as quickly as allergy shots. Therefore, severe adverse reactions, such as anaphylaxis, are less likely."
Anaphylaxis is an extreme sensitivity to a particular substance such as a specific protein or drug that can lead to itching, swelling and breathing difficulties.
However, patients are still given epinephrine (medication to relax the airways and constrict blood vessels) to inject should they have a severe reaction to the drops.
The allergy drops are not yet covered by insurance and patients are required to pay $100 a month out of pocket for the drops. The allergist will see patients once every three or four months for check-ups.
To find out more information or schedule an appointment, please call Emory HealthConnection at 404-778-7777 or Dr. Patel's office at 404-686-1850.