Allergies, including allergic rhinitis (otherwise known as hay fever), pester up to 50 million people in the U.S., according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. For some suffering with seasonal allergies, typically those with symptoms three-plus months of the year or who have not had success with meds, allergy shots are a treatment option. Known as immunotherapy, this involves receiving upper-arm shots containing increasingly larger amounts of the problem allergen, such as pet dander or mold, and requires getting to the doctor’s office once or twice weekly during the initial months of treatment.

Such requirements can present a challenge to those with transportation troubles, or to those who dread needles. Allergy drops may provide a more convenient alternative treatment option to help curb wheezing and runny noses, as well as other annoying allergy symptoms, finds a new Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study funded by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Placing small amounts of dust mites, mold, pollen, purified grasses, and ragweed under-tongue may be a safe option for those with allergies who would prefer to avoid weekly injections and oral allergy medications, according to the recently completed review of 63 published studies involving more than 5,000 allergy patients.

While some doctors in the U.S. recommend off-label usage of the drops to allergy patients, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved such so-called sublingual therapies. Yet, for some 20 years, allergy drops, or sublingual immunotherapy, have been readily available in Europe.

Strong evidence, meaning eight of 13 studies analyzed, showed that the drops, when compared to other treatments such as inhaled steroids, decreased allergy symptoms (including chest tightness, coughing, and wheezing) by 40 percent.

Moderate evidence, meaning nine of 36 studies that compared allergy drops to antihistamines and nasal-steroid-spray treatments, found the drops to reduce symptoms including nasal congestion, runny nose, and sneezing by 40 percent.

Researchers such as Senior Study Investigator Sandra Lin, M.D., said the findings show “clear evidence that sublingual immunotherapy, in the form of allergy drops, is an effective potential treatment option for millions of Americans suffering from allergic asthma and allergic rhinoconjunctivitis,” in a statement.

If you or a loved one experience symptoms of allergies at least three months of the year and are looking for a treatment alternative to allergy medications and shots, ask your allergy specialist whether allergy drops may be an appropriate option for you.

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