Oral Immunotherapy

Most allergy treatments control symptoms such as 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 markedly reduce allergy symptoms or even make them go away.

How Oral Immunotherapy Works

Oral immunotherapy gets your body used to an allergen so it doesn't cause a reaction. Right now, hay fever is the only allergic reaction treated with oral immunotherapy tablets.

Here's how it can help.

First, your doctor needs to do allergy testing to find out the cause of your allergies.

If you have 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.

You’ll get more 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 get the allergen. Or you may not even have 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.

It’s easier. Usually you can do it at home.

It has lower risks. Common side effects include:

Can I Get Oral Immunotherapy?

Talk to your doctor if you're interested in this option. The prescription tablets, called GRASTEK, Ragwitek, and Oralair, are FDA-approved to treat hay fever. Odactra is a drug the FDA approved in 2017 for dust mite-induced allergic rhinitis.

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 Nayana Ambardekar, MD on May 12, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology: "Allergy Treatment," "Sublingual Immunotherapy."

UpToDate: "Oral and sublingual immunotherapy for allergic rhinitis."

News release, FDA.

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