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Overview

Allergists can now offer more relief options to some allergy patients: Allergy tablets may be prescribed to treat people who are allergic to ragweed and some grass pollen.

Allergy tablets are a form of sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT). They offer a way to treat certain allergies without shots. The tablets are placed under the tongue for one to two minutes and then swallowed as they dissolve. The process is repeated from three days a week to as often as daily. The tablets will increase your tolerance to the pollen and reduce your symptoms over time. For continued effectiveness, treatment may be needed for three years or longer. Allergy tablets are currently available for ragweed and grass pollen only.

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Will SLIT Tablets Work for Me?

Treatment with allergy tablets may begin after it is determined that you are allergic to grass or ragweed pollen. Different tablets are approved for specific ages. Your allergist will help you determine the best allergy treatment for your condition.

Allergists are specialists trained in the best methods for allergy testing and treatment. Your allergist will help you identify the cause of your allergy symptoms. When combined with a detailed medical history, testing can help identify the specific cause of your allergic reactions.

Are the New Allergy Tablets Safe?

Side effects of allergy tablets for adults and children are usually local and mild, occurring early in treatment most of the time. They include an itchy mouth or stomach problems. These can usually be managed by dose adjustments after discussion with your allergist.

The risks of SLIT relate mostly to the nature of the treatment. The tablets are taken at home without direct medical supervision. Patients should receive clear guidance from their allergist on what to do if they experience a rare, but severe, allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) or miss a scheduled treatment. They need to know when to consult their allergist. An epinephrine auto-injector will be prescribed to treat a severe reaction at home.

Patients who take this allergy medication must read and understand the Medication Guide that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for each product and follow the instructions and precautions in these guides. Patients also must read and understand the warnings in the package insert.

Are Allergy Tablets Better than Allergy Shots?

Both types of allergy immunotherapy help the body build resistance to the effects of an allergen, reducing symptoms. Immunotherapy can sometimes eliminate skin test reactions.

Allergy tablets treat only one type of allergen. Allergy sufferers are typically allergic to more than one allergen. Allergy shots, also known as subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT), can provide relief for more than one allergen. Shots are effective in treating reactions to many allergens including trees, grass, weeds, mold, house dust, dander, and insect stings.

Allergy shots have been a proven treatment for more than 100 years. It is the only treatment that changes the immune system and prevents new allergies and asthma from developing. Research shows allergy shots reduce health care use and costs from prescription medicines, office visits and hospitalizations.

Allergy shots are effective in treating allergies to ragweed relatives like avocado, melon and some other fruits. It is unknown whether the new allergy tablets for ragweed will offer this protection.

There are pros and cons of these different forms of treatment. Board-certified allergists can help patients make good short- and long-term decisions.

Will SLIT Be Available for Other Allergies?

Research has shown SLIT is relatively safe and effective for the treatment of rhinitis (hay fever) and asthma caused by allergies to dust mites, cat dander and tree pollens. In addition, it may be an effective therapy for children with mild atopic dermatitis (eczema). It is being studied as a potential treatment for food allergies.

There are many allergy medication options, including over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants, shots and the new allergy tablets for grass pollen and ragweed. Each person’s treatment is based on how often the individual has symptoms, how bad they are and how long they last. If you have more questions, speak to your allergist.