Allergy Drops FAQs

Allergy drops bottles and pouch

Allergy drops: an alternative to shots?

The Austin Diagnostic Clinic Allergy and Immunology section will offer Allergy Drop therapy beginning in January 2015.  Dr. Scott Oberhoff, adult and pediatric allergist and immunologist answers some questions about this alternative to shot therapy.

What are allergy drops?

Allergy drops, or sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT), are drops from extracts that have been made from varying allergy sources. They are placed under the tongue, and held there for approximately two minutes.

How are allergy drops different than medications?

Allergy drops are different from allergy medications because they are the allergens that the patient is allergic to, which are administered in gradually increasing doses to induce tolerance in the immune system.

This is meant to reduce the overactive allergic branch of the immune system on a permanent basis. By changing the way the immune system responds to the allergens patients typically see improvements in their symptoms. They are not designed or effective for immediate relief of symptoms.

What is the difference between allergy shots and allergy drops?

There are key differences between allergy shots and drops one is how it is administered.  Allergy shots are given by subcutaneous injection while drops are placed under the tongue.  The extracts that are used for both are the SAME, although the dosing and the frequency at which they are administered are different.

Allergy drops will be given every day, while shots can be spaced up to every 4 weeks.  Allergy shots must be administered in an office setting while allergy drops can be administered at home

Common side effects

Most common side effects are mild and include throat irritation, oral itching, irritation, oral numbness, mouth edema and tongue itching. In very rare cases this can progress to a reaction that involves the entire body.

Are allergy drops FDA approved?

Although the same allergy extract is used for allergy drops that is used for allergy shots, there is non-FDA approval for the way they are administered (under the tongue).  Use of allergy extracts under the tongue has recently received FDA approval but only for a few seasonal allergens.

Sublingual immunotherapy has been used in countries outside of the US for several years. Allergy drops are endorsed by the World Allergy Organization and more information can be found at their website at: www.worldallergy.org

Are they effective?

There have been several studies looking at individual allergens and allergy drops. These studies have shown in most cases a significant improvement in symptoms and decrease in medications needed. Some of the studies have shown improvement superior to medications. There is significant correlation with the drops effectiveness and the dose of the allergen given.

Are they safe?

Although there is a very small chance of having a systemic reaction to the allergy drops, to date there have been no reported deaths associated with the drugs used in Europe. We still recommend obtaining an auto injectable epinephrine device to be used in case of a severe or systemic reaction.

Who should take allergy drops?

Allergy drops can be safe and effective for many allergy sufferers, however there are a few people who will do especially well. These include:

  • Those with a fear of needles
  • Most children
  • Those who are sensitive to only a few allergens, or, who have severe symptoms during one or 2 allergy seasons
  • Asthmatics
  • Those who suffer from chronic sinusitis
  • Patients who have difficulty adhering to allergy shot protocols

Who should not take allergy drops?

  • Those with severe and uncontrolled asthma
  • Those with a history of severe reaction to allergy drops in the past
  • Those with a history of eosinophilic esophagitis
  • Those who are taking certain high blood pressure medications

Can allergy drops be given for all types of allergies?

Allergy drops can be given for all types of airborne allergens. They will not be used for food allergies, allergies to stinging insects, or allergies to medications.

How long will I take allergy drops?

Like allergy shots, the current recommendations are to take allergy drops for 3-5 years. Most people we’ll see improvement in the first three to six months with her symptoms, so in general we recommend starting the allergy drops 12 weeks before your most problematic season to get relief.

Will my insurance cover allergy drops?

Currently because there is no FDA approval, most insurance companies do not cover the cost of allergy drops. Allergy drops do however, in many cases, qualify for HSA or flex spending reimbursement.  Check with your insurance company for further details.

For more information about ADC Allergy and Immunology call 512-901-4052 to make an appointment.   Dr. Scott Oberhoff and Dr. John Villacis welcome adults and children to their offices in North Austin, Circle C and Steiner Ranch.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Is it too late to help this year? Unfortunately, it does take a few months to notice an effect. Therefore, it is too late for this cedar season. However, it may be helpful for the spring if started soon.

    Will either Medicare and/or GEHA pay for juniper drops? Currently because there is no FDA approval, most insurance companies do not cover the cost of allergy drops. Allergy drops do however, in many cases, qualify for HSA or flex spending reimbursement. Check with your insurance company for further details.

    What hours are the drops dispensed? During our Allergy shot hours. Here is a link to the page: https://adclinic.wpengine.com/2012/04/allergy-shots-immunotherapy