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Sublingual Immunotherapy

A proven alternative to allergy shots

Our Naturopathic Physicians were the first in their profession to offer this treatment in Canada, and have been using this treatment since 2008.  We treat many patients for seasonal and inhalant allergies in this manner.  Dr. Hutchison now trains other doctors on Sublingual Immunotherapy.

what is it?

Sublingual Immunotherapy, or SLIT, is a proven, injection-free treatment to address the underlying causes of seasonal and environmental allergies. The therapy desensitizes the immune system to pollens, dander, and other allergens. It has been found to be effective in hay fever, allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis and allergic asthma. It has been found to prevent the development of allergic asthma in children with eczema and allergic rhinitis.

Sublingual immunotherapy has been used for over 60 years in various countries. Over one hundred scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals have shown that sublingual treatment is both safe and effective. The World Health Organization considers sublingual immunotherapy a viable alternative to allergy injections. The treatment is very safe, in fact safer than injections. SLIT, when compared to traditional allergy injections, costs less, is more convenient and requires fewer clinic visits. Allergy drops are safe for children, highly reactive people and those with underlying medical conditions that prevent them from being candidates for injection therapy.

Types of allergies treated

At this time, we offer treatment for allergies caused by:

How does it work?

SLIT works in a similar way to traditional allergy shots. A small daily dose of the allergen is given in a sublingual drop form (under the tongue), which gradually reduces your reactivity by training your immune system to no longer react to the allergen.

An initial scratch test is done to determine which allergens you are reactive to. The first dose of the indicated allergen/s is given in the office. Subsequent daily doses of the allergy drops are taken at home. Retesting after 6 months of treatment will determine whether the drops are still needed.

Safe for children

Children 3 years of age and older can be treated using SLIT. This is an ideal treatment for children as it addresses the underlying cause of the allergy and can prevent future problems related to their allergy (such as allergy-induced asthma).

Who should be cautious about this treatment?

People with asthma should have their symptoms well under control during the testing and early treatment phase. We suggest that asthmatics bring their blue (salbutamol) inhaler with them for the testing, and carry it with them throughout their treatment.

Skin prick testing cannot be undertaken by patients taking beta-blockers, and is not advisable during pregnancy.

When should I start my treatment?

For prevention (pre-seasonal treatment), your treatment should start 4-8 weeks prior to pollen season. – Tree pollen: treatment should start early December or January – Grass pollen: treatment should start early April or May.

Co-seasonal treatment (treatment during active allergy symptoms) can start at any time during the allergy season.

There is no season for mold, cat dander, or house dust mite — treatment can start at any time.

How accurate is the testing?

Scratch tests are highly accurate for pollen, dander, dust mite, and mold spore allergies. They have, at minimum, 98% sensitivity and 95% specificity for the allergens tested. Results are highly reproducible. Scratch tests are less reliable for food allergies, and for allergies that are delayed in their presentation. We use other forms of testing to detect these types of concerns.

Appointments and Fees for Sublingual Immunotherapy

Expect to be in the clinic for up to one hour for the initial test. The test itself takes a few minutes to administer, however the results take up to half an hour to be determined.

Your Naturopathic Doctor will write a prescription for the applicable allergy blend and they will be available for pick up at the Pharmasave at the intersection of Helmcken Rd and Old Island Hwy (106-284 Helmcken Rd). For individuals with extended healthcare plans, the cost of the drops may be covered at the time of purchase.  Please contact your provider prior to paying.

Once you have picked up your drops, you must return to the clinic for your first dose.  This is a no charge visit however you must remain at the clinic for at least 15-20 minutes after the first administration of the drops. Subsequent daily doses are taken at home.

Our testing fee is a flat rate of $70.00 plus GST. Cost of the allergen drops depends on the number of allergens being treated.

Studies and Articles about SLIT

Preventive effects of sublingual immunotherapy in childhood: an open randomized controlled study

Marogna, Maurizio; Tomassetti, Dante; Bernasconi, Antonella; Colombo, Fausto; Massolo, Alessandro; Rienzo Businco, Andrea D.; Canonica, Giorgio W.; Passalacqua, Giovanni; Tripodi, Salvatore

Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, Volume 101, Number 2, August 2008 , pp. 206-211(6)

One hundred forty-four children received SLIT and 72 received drugs only. New sensitizations appeared in 34.8% of controls and in 3.1% of SLIT patients. Mild persistent asthma was less frequent in SLIT patients. There was a significant decrease in clinical scores in the SLIT group vs the control group since the first year. The number of children with a positive methacholine challenge result decreased significantly after 3 years only in the SLIT group. Adherence was 80% or higher in 73.8% of patients. Only 1 patient reported systemic itching.

Effects of sublingual immunotherapy for multiple or single allergens in polysensitized patients

Marogna, Maurizio; Spadolini, Igino; Massolo, Alessandro; Zanon, Pietro; Berra, Daniele; Chiodini, Elena; Canonica, Walter G.; Passalacqua, Giovanni

Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, Volume 98, Number 3, March 2007 , pp. 274-280(7)

No change in all the considered parameters vs. baseline was seen in patients treated with drugs only. Those patients receiving SLIT for grass or birch had a significant clinical improvement and nasal eosinophil reduction vs. baseline and vs. patients who did not receive SLIT in the target season (P < .01) but also in the unrelated pollen season (P < .05). The patients receiving SLIT for grass and birch improved as well, and their improvement in clinical symptoms and inflammation was significantly greater than in patients treated with SLIT for the single allergens. In patients sensitized to grass and birch, SLIT with the 2 allergens provided the best clinical results. Nevertheless, SLIT with birch only or grass only also provided a measurable improvement in the grass season and birch season, respectively.

Efficacy of sublingual immunotherapy in grass pollen allergy

Wessner D, Rakoski J, Ring J. Chemical Immunology and Allergy. 2003;82:53-61.

Review article: “For allergic rhinitis an expert panel collaborating with the WHO [World Health Organization] recently proposed that SLIT was a viable alternative for injectable immunotherapy (SIT) since a multitude of double-blind, placebo-controlled studies had proved the effectiveness of SLIT. Unfortunately, there are only a small number of studies comparing effectiveness of SLIT directly with subcutaneous SIT. These studies demonstrated comparable effectiveness of both therapies. According to the data so far SLIT can be recommended for the therapy of allergic rhinitis in adults and children refusing injectable therapy.”

Oral drops could replace shots for kids with asthma

Tue, Mar 4, 2008 (HealthDay News)

“Oral allergy immunotherapy — in the form of drops or tablets — is effective at reducing asthma symptoms and the need for asthma medications in children who have what’s known as allergic asthma, a new study finds.”

Click here for the entire article.

A short video clip from a June 2008 interview on a USA morning TV show.