Consumer Reports: Get the benefits of allergy shots, without needles

Get the Benefits of Allergy Shots, Without Needles

You can now treat some seasonal allergies with a pill held under your tongue

By Sari Harrar

May 02, 2016

If seasonal allergies to grass pollen or ragweed are making you miserable this spring, you have another option: sublingual immunotherapy, or putting a dissolvable tablet containing purified extracts of the offending allergens under your tongue.

The treatment, also called SLIT, is similar to allergy shots—but without the needle. An allergist prescribes you small doses of the allergen, in tablet form, which you hold under your tongue for a minute or two and then swallow. Over a few weeks of this treatment, you build up a tolerance to the allergens and, eventually, your reactions should greatly diminish.

The first few times, your allergist may want you to take the treatment in his or her office, as with allergy shots, to make sure there are no side effects. After that, though, you should be able to do it at home.

The prescription treatment is currently only approved by the Food and Drug Administration for people who are allergic to grass pollen or ragweed, according to the American College of Asllery, Asthma, & Immunology. And it's is not approved for those over age 65 and carries warnings about potential severe allergic reactions.

While some physicians use drops instead of tablets against a wider range of allergens—including dust mites, cat dander, and dust pollens—that approach is still being studied and not officially approved by the Food and Drug Administration. 

You usually consider sublingual therapy only it you have frequent, bothersome allergy symptoms that aren’t eased by antihistamines and steroid nasal sprays, and you don’t want to use traditional immunotherapy, which means the allergy shots.