If you’re allergic to something, exposing yourself to the offending agent doesn’t seem like a smart move. But researchers are encouraged by results from sublingual immunotherapy, in which drops of a concentrated allergen are placed under the tongue. The treatment is widely used in Europe, South America, and Asia, but is not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S.
A recent review of research studies on the treatment published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that it reduced asthma and seasonal allergy symptoms in patients by as much as 40%. The treatment works in the same way as allergy shots, by exposing patients to small amount of allergen — in this case via droplets under the tongue — in the hopes that their immune systems learn to become tolerant to the allergen and no longer mount immune responses against them.
Both adult and child participants in the study who were treated with the therapy reported not only moderate improvements in their symptoms but also less need for allergy medications. More studies are needed to determine which doses are most effective — and safe — before the treatment moves out of the research setting, but the so far the results are encouraging.