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Allergies Health Center

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Oral Immunotherapy

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

Immunotherapy -- in the form of allergy shots drops or tablets you put under your tongue -- 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 so it doesn't trigger an allergic reaction. Right now, hay fever is the only allergic reaction treated with oral immunotherapy tablets.

Here's how oral immunotherapy can help.

  • First, your doctor needs to do allergy testing to find out what's triggering your allergies.
  • If you suffer from hay fever, your doctor will give you a tiny dose of the allergen as a 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 of the allergen on a regular basis 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 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.

You may have also heard about immunotherapy drops. Because drops are not approved by the FDA, there is no way to know what they contain or how safe or effective they may be.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Luqman Seidu, MD on October 26, 2014

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