May 14, 2024

Food Allergy Drops: Sublingual Immunotherapy

Food allergies can significantly impact daily life, leading to anxiety and dietary restrictions. However, with advancements in allergy care, such as sublingual immunotherapy for food allergies (SLIT), there's hope for individuals seeking relief from food allergies. Throughout this blog, we'll explore various aspects of food allergy drops, including treatment duration, potential side effects, benefits, and its potential to transform the lives of those with food allergies.

What are food allergies?

Food allergies are adverse immune system reactions triggered by specific proteins present in certain foods. When individuals with food allergies ingest these particular foods, their immune system perceives the proteins as harmful invaders, prompting the release of histamines and other chemicals that initiate the allergic response. This immune reaction can vary in severity and may manifest as skin irritation, digestive disturbances, respiratory issues, or even life-threatening anaphylaxis. Common food allergens encompass a range of items such as peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, milk, eggs, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish, although any food protein can potentially induce an allergic reaction. These are often referred to as the “top 9.”

Management of food allergies requires strict avoidance of allergen-containing foods, examination of food labels, and, in most instances, carrying emergency medications like epinephrine to counteract severe reactions. Individuals with food allergies must remain vigilant in navigating their food choices to prevent exposure and reduce the risk of allergic reactions.

Food allergy symptoms

Food allergies can trigger a range of symptoms, varying from mild discomfort to severe reactions that can be life-threatening. Some of the key symptoms associated with food allergies include:

  • Skin reactions such as hives, itching, or eczema
  • Gastrointestinal issues like nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or diarrhea
  • Respiratory problems including nasal congestion, coughing, sneezing, wheezing, or difficulty breathing
  • Oral symptoms like swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat
  • Cardiovascular symptoms such as rapid heartbeat or a drop in blood pressure
  • Anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction characterized by a combination of symptoms affecting multiple body systems.

It's crucial to recognize these symptoms promptly and seek appropriate medical care, as untreated food allergies can lead to serious complications. By being aware of the signs of a food allergy, individuals can take proactive measures to manage their condition and minimize the risk of adverse reactions.

What are food allergy drops

Food allergy drops, also known as sublingual immunotherapy, are a form of treatment designed to desensitize individuals with food allergies by gradually exposing them to tiny amounts of the allergen. This therapy involves placing drops containing small doses of the allergenic substance under the tongue, where it is absorbed into the bloodstream. Over time, the immune system becomes accustomed to the allergen and develops tolerance, reducing the severity of allergic reactions or preventing them altogether. Food allergy drops are typically administered under the guidance of a healthcare professional and may require regular monitoring to ensure safety and effectiveness. Food SLIT generally will not completely eliminate a food allergy, it brings it to the point where there will be no severe or life threatening reaction if accidental exposure occurs. This can give peace of mind to parents of young children in school. However, it's essential for individuals considering this treatment to consult with their healthcare provider to determine if it's suitable for their specific allergy and medical history.

How do I know if I’m a candidate for food allergy drops

The ideal candidate for food allergy drops typically includes individuals who meet certain criteria. These candidates may be children or adults diagnosed with a moderate to severe food allergy, such as allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, or other common allergens. SLIT is often a first step for those considering OIT, as it can help build a gradual tolerance before moving onto ingesting food. Candidates should be in good overall health with a well-controlled medical history, as underlying health conditions or uncontrolled allergies may impact the suitability of SLIT treatment. Additionally, candidates should be committed to the treatment process, as SLIT often requires consistency to the treatment over an extended period. Ultimately, the decision to pursue food allergy drops should be made in consultation with a qualified healthcare provider who can assess the individual's specific allergy profile and medical history to determine the appropriateness of SLIT as a treatment option. 

Who is not a candidate for food allergy drops:

Not all individuals with food allergies are suitable candidates for food allergy drops. Those who are not considered ideal candidates include:

Individuals with severe or uncontrolled asthma: SLIT may exacerbate respiratory symptoms and could potentially lead to serious complications. Asthma severity and control should be carefully assessed before considering SLIT treatment.

Individuals with certain medical conditions or medications: Certain medical conditions or medications may interfere with the effectiveness or safety of SLIT. These may include autoimmune disorders, immunodeficiency disorders, or medications that suppress the immune system.

Overall, the decision to pursue SLIT treatment should be carefully evaluated in consultation with a qualified allergist or immunologist, taking into account the individual's specific allergy profile, medical history, and overall health status.

Food allergy testing

Food allergy testing typically involves various methods to identify specific food allergens triggering an individual's allergic reactions. The duration of food allergy testing can vary depending on the specific tests performed and the number of allergens being evaluated. Generally, food allergy testing appointments may last anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours, depending on factors such as the type of tests being conducted and the patient's medical history. 

Common methods of food allergy testing include skin prick tests, blood tests (such as IgE antibody testing), and oral food challenges

  • During skin prick tests, small amounts of suspected allergens are applied to the skin, usually on the forearm or back, and the skin is pricked to allow the allergen to enter the body. 

  • Blood tests measure levels of specific antibodies (IgE) produced by the immune system in response to allergens. These tests can identify allergic sensitivities to a range of foods, including common allergens like peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish. 

  • Oral food challenges involve gradually introducing suspected allergens in a controlled clinical setting under medical supervision to observe any allergic reactions. Food allergy testing is typically conducted by allergists or immunologists and plays a crucial role in diagnosing food allergies and developing appropriate management strategies for affected individuals.

How effective are food allergy drops?

The effectiveness of food allergy drops in treating food allergies varies among individuals and allergens. While some studies have reported improvements in tolerance to specific food allergens, particularly in children with peanut allergies, the overall evidence supporting the effectiveness of SLIT for food allergies is still limited compared to other allergy treatments such as oral immunotherapy or avoidance strategies. It’s important to remember that SLIT may not be suitable for all food allergens or individuals, and its effectiveness can depend on factors such as the severity of the allergy, the specific allergen involved, and individual response to treatment. Individuals considering SLIT for food allergies should consult with a qualified allergist or immunologist to discuss the potential benefits and risks based on their specific allergy profile and medical history.

How long does it take to see results from food allergy drops 

The timeline for observing results from food allergy drops, also known as sublingual immunotherapy, can vary widely among individuals and depends on several factors, including the specific allergen being targeted, the severity of the allergy, and the individual's response to treatment. In general, it may take several months to years of consistent treatment with SLIT before noticeable improvements in food allergy symptoms occur. Some individuals may experience early signs of desensitization within a few months of starting SLIT, while others may require longer periods of treatment before seeing significant changes. Regular monitoring by a healthcare provider is essential to assess progress and make any necessary adjustments to the treatment plan. 

How do food allergy drops compare to OIT

Food allergy drops and oral immunotherapy (OIT) are both forms of treatment designed to desensitize individuals with food allergies by gradually exposing them to small amounts of the allergen. However, they differ in their administration methods and protocols. SLIT involves placing drops containing allergenic extracts under the tongue, where they are absorbed into the bloodstream, while OIT entails ingesting small, controlled amounts of the allergen. While both treatments have shown promise in improving tolerance to specific food allergens, they also have distinct advantages and limitations. OIT is typically administered under medical supervision and involves higher doses of allergen exposure, leading to faster desensitization in some cases. However, it may be associated with a higher risk of allergic reactions. SLIT offers a less invasive administration method and may be more suitable for individuals who prefer avoiding ingesting the allergen, not just the protein. However, SLIT may require longer treatment durations and may not be as effective for all food allergens or protect from large exposures of the allergen. Ultimately, the choice between SLIT and OIT depends on individual factors such as the specific allergy, treatment goals, and patient preferences.

What are the side effects of food allergy drops

Common side effects of SLIT may include reactions such as itching, swelling, or irritation in the mouth or throat where the drops are administered. Some individuals may also experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal discomfort. It's important for individuals undergoing SLIT to be closely monitored by a healthcare provider for any adverse reactions, and adjustments to the treatment plan may be necessary to minimize side effects. 

Frequently asked questions about food allergy drops

Are food allergy drops safer than OIT?

Generally, food allergy drops are typically associated with fewer side effects and are less likely to cause severe allergic reactions due to a more diluted dose of the allergen. Since the goal of food allergy drops is to reduce the life-threatening risk of accidental exposures or traces of cross-contact, it is considered safer than OIT, where the goal is to be able to ingest the food allergy freely. There is a substantially larger risk for anaphylaxis when treated with OIT, which is why it is done in-office, where medical professionals are carefully watching and ready to take action. 

Can I travel with my food allergy drops?

Yes, you can travel with your food allergy drops! They are generally considered safe and convenient for transportation. Food allergy drops are often stable at room temperature and can be easily packed for travel. One of the main perks of using allergy drops is the ability to be flexible with your allergy treatment to take anywhere with you. Overall, with proper planning and preparation, you can travel with your food allergy drops and continue your allergy treatment regimen while away from home.

How long do I have to restrict activity before or after taking a dose?

When it comes to restricting activity before or after taking a dose of food allergy drops the general recommendation is to wait at least 20 minutes after administration. This allows the drops to be absorbed properly under the tongue without interference from food or drink. During this time, it's best to avoid eating anything to ensure the effectiveness of the treatment.

Are allergy drops covered by insurance? 

The coverage for allergy drops can vary depending on your insurance provider, policy, and the specific circumstances of your treatment. While some insurance plans may cover SLIT for certain allergies, including environmental allergies like pollen or dust mites, coverage for food allergy drops may be less common since they are considered an off-label use. It's essential to check with your insurance provider to determine if allergy drops are covered under your plan and to inquire about any specific requirements or limitations. At Aspire Allergy & Sinus, we do offer self-pay rates and payment plans for our allergy drops.

Food allergy drops offer a promising avenue for individuals seeking long-term relief from the burden of food allergies. This innovative treatment option can help desensitize the immune system to specific food allergens, potentially reducing the severity of allergic reactions and improving overall quality of life. While food allergy drops may not be suitable for everyone, they represent a significant advancement in allergy care and provide hope for those struggling with food allergies. If you're interested in exploring whether food allergy drops are the right solution for you, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with our team at Aspire Allergy & Sinus. Our experienced allergists can assess your allergy profile, discuss treatment options, and create a personalized plan tailored to your needs. Take the first step towards freedom from food allergies by booking an appointment online today!

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