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Oral Immunotherapy

Most allergy treatments control your symptoms, like itchy eyes and runny nose. They don't treat the cause.

Immunotherapy -- in the form of drops or tablets you put under your tongue and traditional allergy shots -- is different. It can drastically reduce allergy symptoms or even make them go away.

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How Oral Immunotherapy Works

Oral immunotherapy is a way to get your body used to an allergen -- like pet dander or mold -- so it doesn't trigger an allergic reaction.

Here's how oral immunotherapy can help.

  • First, your doctor needs to do allergy testing to find out what's triggering your allergies.
  • Once you know the allergen, your doctor will give you a tiny dose of it as a drop or tablet. You let it sit under your tongue and then swallow it.
  • Because the dose is so small, your body won't react.
  • Your doctor will keep giving you doses, at first several times a week and then maybe once a month, slowly increasing the amount of the allergen so your body gets used to it.
  • Eventually you should have only very mild symptoms when you’re exposed to the allergen. Some people may not have any symptoms anymore.

Oral immunotherapy works the same way that allergy shots do, except it:

  • Doesn't require shots. This could make a difference for many people, especially children.
  • Is easier. Usually you can do it at home.
  • Has lower risks. Allergy drops or tablets seem to have a lower risk of serious allergic reactions. Common side effects include sore throat, swollen tongue, and itchy lips, tongue, and mouth.

Can I Get Oral Immunotherapy?

If you're interested in oral immunotherapy, talk to your doctor. The prescription tablets, called Grastek, Ragwitek, and Oralair, are FDA approved to treat hay fever. Drops may cover a broader range of allergies.   

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on October 16, 2012

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