Updated:

October 16, 2023

Comparing Allergy Drops vs. Shots: What Allergy Sufferers Need to Know

For anyone grappling with allergies, finding an effective treatment can be life-changing. The two most talked-about options are allergy drops and allergy shots, but how do they stack up against each other? In this comparison article, we will explore these two popular treatments in depth to give you a clear understanding of their respective benefits and uses. From the nuances of effectiveness to considerations of convenience and cost, this guide aims to equip you with the critical information you need to make an informed decision about your allergy treatment options. 

What are allergy shots?

Allergy shots, also known as allergen immunotherapy, are a medical treatment designed to help individuals with allergies build tolerance to specific allergens over time. These shots can effectively treat a wide range of allergens, including pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds, dust mites, pet dander, and insect venom.

The treatment timeline typically involves two phases: the build-up phase and the maintenance phase. During the build-up phase, patients receive increasing doses of the allergen through injections, usually one to two times a week. This phase typically lasts three to six months. Once an effective dose is reached, patients move on to the maintenance phase, which involves receiving injections at a reduced frequency, usually every four to six weeks. The duration of the maintenance phase can vary from several years to even longer, depending on the patient's response.

While the injections may cause mild discomfort, they are generally well-tolerated and do not cause severe pain. The number of shots for each allergen varies depending on the specific treatment plan and the patient's progress, but it typically ranges from a few months to several years. Allergy shots are a highly effective long-term solution for many individuals suffering from severe allergies, offering significant relief from symptoms and improved quality of life.

What are allergy drops?

Allergy drops, also known as sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT), are a treatment option for allergies that involve administering allergen extracts in liquid form under the tongue. These drops are designed to treat a variety of allergens, similar to allergy shots, including pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds, dust mites, pet dander, and more. One of the significant advantages of allergy drops is their convenience; they can be taken from the comfort of one's own home or anywhere, making them a flexible option for those with busy lifestyles. Unlike the injections associated with allergy shots, the taste of allergy drops is generally more palatable, often described as mildly sweet or flavorless, making them easier to tolerate. Furthermore, one of the key features of allergy drops is their customization. Each patient receives a tailored blend of allergens based on their specific allergy profile, ensuring a personalized treatment approach that targets their unique sensitivities. The treatment timeline for allergy drops typically involves daily use, and the duration of treatment can vary but generally extends over several years to achieve long-term desensitization to allergens and symptom relief.

Allergy Drops vs. Shots

Here are the main differences between allergy shots and allergy drops, highlighting the pros and cons of each treatment:

Allergy Shots:

Pros:

  • Highly effective at reducing allergy symptoms and improving quality of life.
  • Administered under medical supervision, ensuring accurate dosing and monitoring.
  • Typically faster symptom relief during the build-up phase.
  • Less frequent maintenance injections are needed once an effective dose is reached.

Cons:

  • Requires regular visits to a medical facility, which can be time-consuming.
  • Injections can cause mild discomfort or pain.
  • Longer build-up phase (usually several months) before reaching the maintenance phase.
  • Potential risk of rare allergic reactions.

Allergy Drops (Sublingual Immunotherapy, SLIT):

Pros:

  • It is convenient and can be taken at home or on the go, reducing the need for frequent clinic visits.
  • There are no needles or injections, making it painless and suitable for needle-phobic individuals.
  • Customized allergen blends tailored to the patient's specific profile.
  • Generally well-tolerated with a more pleasant taste that even kids love. 

Cons:

  • It takes longer to reach full effectiveness compared to allergy shots.
  • Daily administration is required for an extended period (typically several years).
  • It may not be as potent as allergy shots for some severe allergies.
  • Limited availability and insurance coverage compared to allergy shots.

In summary, both allergy shots and allergy drops are effective treatments for allergies, but they differ in terms of convenience, treatment timelines, and administration methods. Allergy shots provide faster relief but require regular medical visits, while allergy drops offer more flexibility but require longer-term daily use. The choice between the two typically depends on individual preferences, the severity of allergies.

Side effects of allergy shots

Allergy shots are generally safe and effective, but like any medical treatment, they can have potential side effects. Common side effects of allergy shots include:

  • Local Reactions: The most common side effect is a local reaction at the injection site. This may manifest as redness, swelling, itching, or tenderness. These symptoms are usually mild and subside on their own within a day or two.

  • Systemic Reactions: Less frequently, some individuals may experience systemic reactions, which can include sneezing, nasal congestion, itching, hives, or mild asthma symptoms. These reactions typically occur within 30 minutes of the injection and can be managed by medical staff.

  • Rare Severe Reactions: While extremely rare, severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) can occur. Symptoms may include difficulty breathing, a drop in blood pressure, a rapid heart rate, and swelling of the throat. This is a medical emergency requiring immediate treatment.

  • Delayed Reactions: In some cases, delayed reactions may occur hours after the injection, with symptoms such as generalized hives or worsening asthma. These are also rare but require medical attention.

Patients undergoing allergy shots are closely monitored during and after each injection to ensure their safety. The risk of severe reactions is relatively low, and the potential benefits in terms of allergy symptom reduction and improved quality of life often outweigh the risks. It's important for patients to discuss any concerns or side effects with their healthcare provider, who can adjust the treatment plan as needed to minimize any adverse reactions.

Side effects of allergy drops

Allergy drops are generally considered safe and well-tolerated, but like any medical treatment, they may have potential side effects. Common side effects of allergy drops are typically mild and can include:

Oral Irritation: Some individuals may experience mild itching, tingling, or irritation in the mouth or under the tongue where the drops are placed.

Gastrointestinal Symptoms: Occasionally, patients may report mild gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, stomachache, or diarrhea.

Allergic Reactions: While rare, some individuals may experience an allergic reaction to the allergen extracts in the drops. Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include hives, swelling, difficulty breathing, or a rapid heartbeat. In such cases, immediate medical attention is necessary.

It's important to note that the risk of severe allergic reactions with allergy drops is significantly lower than with allergy shots. However, it's crucial for patients undergoing SLIT to be monitored by a healthcare provider and to follow their prescribed treatment plan closely. If any concerning side effects occur, patients should contact their healthcare provider for guidance and potential adjustments to their treatment regimen.

FAQ's about allergy drops and allergy shots

Why allergy drops or allergy shots versus over-the-counter medications?

It's crucial to recognize the paramount importance of long-term treatments such as allergy drops and allergy shots in contrast to relying solely on over-the-counter medications to manage allergy symptoms. While over-the-counter medications can provide temporary relief from symptoms like sneezing, congestion, or itchy eyes, they often come with side effects such as drowsiness or dry mouth, and they only address the surface-level symptoms without addressing the root cause of your allergies. Allergy drops and shots, on the other hand, offer a comprehensive approach by desensitizing your immune system to the allergens triggering your reactions. These treatments can significantly reduce or even eliminate your symptoms over time, providing lasting relief without the need for daily medication. By addressing the underlying cause of your allergies, long-term treatments not only improve your quality of life but also offer a more sustainable and effective solution for those seeking a life free from the limitations of allergy symptoms. 

Read more on Reid’s story on how he found more relief with allergy drops than antihistamines.

Are allergy drops as effective as allergy shots?

Both allergy drops (sublingual immunotherapy, or SLIT) and allergy shots (subcutaneous immunotherapy, or SCIT) are effective treatments for allergies, but their effectiveness can vary depending on individual factors. Allergy shots have a longer history of use and research supporting their efficacy, and they tend to work faster in terms of symptom relief, especially during the build-up phase. However, allergy drops have shown significant effectiveness as well, particularly in treating a wide range of allergens, and they offer the advantage of convenience since they can be administered at home without the need for frequent clinic visits. The choice between the two treatments often depends on patient preference, the specific allergens being targeted, and the severity of allergy symptoms. 

Do allergy drops work faster than allergy shots?

Allergy drops and allergy shots can differ in their treatment timelines. In general, allergy shots tend to work faster in terms of symptom relief, particularly during the initial build-up phase of treatment. This is because allergy shots involve administering allergen extracts directly into the bloodstream, allowing for a quicker immune response and desensitization. On the other hand, allergy drops require a more extended build-up phase and often take a bit longer to achieve noticeable improvements. However, it's important to note that the exact timeline of effectiveness can vary from person to person and depends on factors such as the specific allergens being treated and individual responsiveness to the therapy. Therefore, the choice between allergy drops and shots should not solely be based on speed of relief but rather on other factors like convenience, lifestyle, and individual treatment goals. 

Are allergy drops cheaper than allergy shots?

The cost of allergy drops (sublingual immunotherapy, or SLIT) versus allergy shots (allergen immunotherapy) can vary depending on several factors, including the specific treatment plan, duration of therapy, and insurance coverage. In some cases, allergy drops may appear more cost-effective initially due to fewer clinic visits and the ability to self-administer at home, which reduces travel and time expenses. However, it's essential to consider the long-term costs. Allergy shots often have a longer history of research and clinical use, and some insurance plans may cover a larger portion of the costs for allergy shots compared to drops.

Additionally, the duration of treatment can influence costs; while allergy drops may require daily use for several years, allergy shots typically involve a more extended build-up phase followed by less frequent maintenance injections. Overall, the cost comparison between allergy drops and shots can vary widely, and it's advisable for patients to discuss their individual financial considerations and insurance coverage with their allergist to make an informed decision about the most cost-effective treatment option for their specific allergy needs.

Where can I receive allergy drops?

At Aspire Allergy & Sinus, we offer comprehensive allergy testing and treatment services, including the administration of allergy drops, also known as sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT). Our experienced team of allergists is dedicated to helping you find relief from your allergy symptoms and improve your quality of life. When you choose Aspire Allergy & Sinus for your allergy care, you can conveniently receive your allergy drops right at home. Our efficient process ensures that your personalized bottle of drops is shipped to you every three months, ensuring you always have a fresh supply before you run out. This eliminates the need for frequent clinic visits, making your allergy treatment not only effective but also convenient. If you're seeking a trusted and patient-centered approach to allergy management, we encourage you to consider Aspire Allergy & Sinus as your partner in achieving lasting relief from allergies.

What do allergy drops taste like?

Allergy drops generally have a natural sweet taste due to the presence of glycerin, a common ingredient used in their formulation. Moreover, to enhance the overall experience, at Aspire Allergy & Sinus we offer a variety of flavors for allergy drops, including options like strawberry, raspberry, apple, and grape. These added flavors not only make the drops more enjoyable to also turn the process of taking allergy drops into a more enjoyable and kid-friendly experience. This can be especially helpful in encouraging younger patients to stick to their allergy treatment plan.

How Aspire Allergy and Sinus Can Help You

At Aspire Allergy & Sinus, we take pride in providing top-notch allergy testing and treatment services, including allergen immunotherapy through allergy shots or allergy drops. Our team of experienced allergists is committed to helping you effectively manage your allergies and improve your overall well-being. When you choose Aspire Allergy & Sinus for your allergy care, you gain access to a trusted and patient-centered environment. Our clinics are equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and staffed with highly skilled professionals who will ensure your treatment is safe and tailored to your specific needs. With a network of conveniently located clinics, you can receive allergy shots at a location that suits you best, all while benefiting from our expertise and commitment to your long-term health.

If you've been enduring the discomfort of allergies and are ready to take control of your health and quality of life, we encourage you to take the first step towards relief by booking an appointment with one of our exceptional allergists at Aspire Allergy & Sinus. Our dedicated team is here to provide you with personalized and effective allergy testing and treatment options. Don't let allergies hold you back any longer; our experienced allergists are ready to help you breathe easier, feel better, and enjoy life to the fullest. Booking your appointment online is quick and convenient, so take that positive step today towards a future free from allergy-related discomfort. We look forward to partnering with you on your journey to a healthier, happier you.

Get Our FREE E-Book
On ExACT 
Immunoplasty℠

About The Author: