St. John's Clinic Offers Allergy Relief Alternative

March 18, 2010

St. John’sClinic-Ear, Nose and Throat now offers an alternative treatment in the fight against allergies.

Sublingual immunotherapy – a treatment that has been used in Europe and South America for more than 60 years, is catching on in the U.S.

St. John’s Clinic-ENT offers immunotherapy for both environmental and food allergies via daily drops under the tongue (sublingual) or via shots in the upper arm, which are usually given weekly. Like shots, the active ingredients in the drops are customized to the patients’ allergies and use the same allergy antigens.

“Allergy drops work in the same way the shots do,” says Beth Colwell, LPN, who helps administer the allergy program at St. John’s Clinic-ENT. “The idea is to inoculate people with small amounts of the substances they are allergic to so their bodies gradually develop immunity.”

She adds that because such small amounts of the allergens are introduced with each shot or drop, it can take three to five years to develop total immunity.

Patients cite cost, convenience and painlessness as pros over taking weekly shots.

After an appointment with one of the ENT physicians, patients are tested for allergies with a blood analysis or with small injections of allergens in their upper arm. Based on the results, a customized serum that contains the allergens suspended in fluid is created. Patients take one drop under the tongue three times daily. There is no taste and the only side effect may be itching under the tongue for the first several days of treatment. The drops cost about $12 a week, with most patients buying a three-month supply, she says.