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Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) is a method of treating allergies that closely resembles conventional "allergy shots." In both of these methods, small amounts of allergenic substances are administered periodically and over a long period of time, via a route different from that in which the body ordinarily encounters them. For example, plant pollens ordinarily cause their allergic reactions by being inhaled. With allergy shots, pollen extracts are injected under the skin, while in SLIT, they are placed under the tongue. The immune system has many components, and only one of them, the IgE/eosinophil system, produces typical allergic reactions. The intended effect of these alternate routes of administration is to “train” other branches of the immune system to neutralize allergens before...
SLIT appears to be safer than conventional allergy shots. The most frequent report of adverse effects include oral itching or swelling, as well as gastrointestinal upset; in the great majority of cases, these are mild and short-lived.1 2 In one study, 12% of patients with allergic rhinitis and/or asthma experienced worsening of symptoms at some point in their treatment. 3 Severe allergic reactions appear to occur rarely. However, it has not been tested in high-risk asthma patients. 4 Another problem is that no allergy extracts for use in sublingual immunotherapy have been officially approved for use in the US, and therefore products available remain incompletely regulated.