Purpose & Benefits
The primary purpose of SLIT is to reduce allergic reactions and symptoms triggered by exposure to allergens. Here's an overview of the purpose and benefits of sublingual immunotherapy:
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Allergen Tolerance Building
The main goal of SLIT is to gradually desensitize the immune system to specific allergens that trigger allergic reactions. This is achieved by exposing the immune system to small, controlled doses of the allergen over time.
By desensitizing the immune system, SLIT aims to reduce the severity of allergy symptoms when an allergic person is exposed to the allergen. Common allergic conditions treated with SLIT include allergic rhinitis (hay fever), allergic conjunctivitis, and allergic asthma.
Symptoms like sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, itchy or watery eyes, coughing, and wheezing may be alleviated or lessened.
SLIT is often administered as a long-term treatment. Over the course of several years, patients gradually become less reactive to allergens, resulting in long-lasting symptom relief even after SLIT is discontinued.
Reduction in Medication Dependence
For many individuals with allergies, SLIT can lead to a reduction in the need for allergy medications such as antihistamines, nasal corticosteroids, and bronchodilators. Some individuals may eventually be able to discontinue these medications altogether.
Improved Quality of Life
By reducing the frequency and severity of allergic reactions, SLIT can significantly improve the quality of life for individuals with allergies. This includes better sleep, fewer missed school or work days, and overall improved well-being.
Small doses of allergen extracts are placed under the tongue, usually in the form of liquid drops or dissolvable tablets. This is typically done daily at home, following the prescribed dosage and schedule.
The allergen extracts are absorbed through the thin tissues under the tongue (sublingual mucosa) and interact with immune cells. Over time, this exposure helps the immune system become less reactive to the allergens, reducing the allergic response.
Numerous clinical trials and surveys over the last 20 years have shown that SLIT is a comparatively safe and effective approach for addressing allergic rhinitis and asthma attributed to sensitivities to common allergens. Moreover, emerging evidence suggests that SLIT could be a viable option for alleviating the discomfort of itchy, reddened eyes during the pollen-heavy hay fever season.
Side effects among both children and adults are usually local and mild, most often occurring early in treatment, presenting as itching in the mouth or stomach problems. These can usually be managed by dose adjustments. Very rarely, severe allergic reactions or anaphylaxis have been reported using SLIT.
SLIT should only be started under the guidance of a medical professional, preferably an allergist, ENT specialist, or immunologist. The treatment is tailored to the specific allergens affecting the individual, and the appropriate dosages are determined based on the person's medical history and allergic sensitivities.