Some types of serious allergies can be treated with immunotherapy injections, also called allergy shots. While these injections are effective, convincing a needle-phobic child to receive three to five years of regular injections can be challenging, to say the least. Fortunately, there is now an alternative to these shots: pills that dissolve under the tongue. Here are three things parents need to know about sublingual immunotherapy.
How is sublingual immunotherapy performed?
Instead of getting painful shots, your child will need to dissolve pills that contain the allergen underneath their tongue. The first dose will be given by their allergist, and they'll be supervised for an hour afterwards. This period of supervision ensures that they don't have an allergic reaction or any other negative reactions to the treatment. If they respond well to this first pill, they'll be prescribed tablets to take at home. They'll need to dissolve these tablets under their tongue every day for twelve months.
It's important that the dosing schedule is followed exactly. Make the pills part of your child's daily routine to help them remember. Remind them that if they don't take their pills, they'll need to get needles.
How does this treatment work?
Sublingual immunotherapy works the same way as immunotherapy injections; it's just the delivery method that is different. The treatment works by building up your child's tolerance to the substances that trigger their allergies. The treatment starts with small doses of the allergens and gradually works up to larger doses. This allows your child's immune system to become desensitized to the substances that previously caused allergic reactions.
Over time, this treatment is able to shift the ratio of certain immune system cells in your child's body. Specifically, the treatment adjusts the ratio of T-helper 1 and T-helper 2 cells. If the immune system is skewed toward the latter type of cell, allergies occur, so balancing the ratio can prevent allergic responses.
What allergies can it treat?
This treatment can be used to treat allergic rhinitis. Allergic rhinitis can be caused by common allergens like grass pollens and dust mites. It can also be used to treat latex allergies. The treatment isn't optimal for food allergies, but since it's shown promise in studies, your child's allergist may attempt it. Preliminary studies have shown that this treatment may also be effective against bee sting allergies, though this isn't an approved treatment yet.
If your child is scared of needles and refuses to get allergy shots, they may be able to receive sublingual immunotherapy instead. Ask your child's allergist if this treatment is appropriate for your child. For more information, contact Kitsap Children's Clinic LLP or a similar location.