Why Allergy Drops are Replacing Allergy Shots – Especially During a Pandemic

Dr. Menachof, MD, has specialized in conditions around the head, throat, ear, nose, neck and face for over 20 years, and was the first to bring sublingual allergy drops to Colorado in 2005. He has been recognized as a Fellow by multiple academies, named one of America’s Top Facial Plastic Surgeons continually since 2003 and is featured in multiple national publications.

Although medicine overall has made significant advances over the last 30 years, the actual visit to your doctor’s office hasn’t changed that much. Long waits with out-of-date magazines in a crowded waiting room, rarely being seen on time, parking far from the office door, visits that are over almost before they begin, and lingering questions only partially answered before the doctor or provider quickly moves on to the next patient. In a world where almost everything else has become more convenient, visits to your doctor’s office have not only not kept pace but have become even more complicated as time has gone on. Why is this the case?

More Patients Lead to Strained Systems

In the US, doctors are paid by insurance companies for office visits. This means that doctors only get paid when patients came into their office. Over the years as reimbursements to doctors have steadily decreased and the costs of running an office have steadily increased, doctors have had to see more patients in order to keep pace. More patient visits, all of which actually have to happen in the office, lead to crowded waiting rooms, the need for more office staff, less time per patient, and more unanswered or only partially answered questions. In other words, more waiting and less doing.

Why Allergy Shots Present a Problem

With the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic, patient-centered doctor visits have gone from a fantasy to a must. When it comes to treating environmental allergies, this problem is much more complicated. The gold standard in the United States for treating environmental allergies long-term has been allergy shots. The upside to shots – they not only treat current allergy symptoms but if done continuously for 4 years or more will protect you against future symptoms from allergies. The downside to shots-they require weekly office visits lasting a minimum of 45 minutes, there is a small chance of a life-threatening allergic reaction from the shot, and if you miss multiple visits in a row you have to start all over again. This means that as allergist’s offices have had to close in response to the recent pandemic, many of the millions who have invested sometimes two or three years into allergy shots are all going to have to start over again. The amount of patient time and healthcare dollars that will have been wasted as the coronavirus pandemic continues cannot be understated.

Allergy Drops – A Better Option

 

Fortunately, there are better alternatives. Allergy drops are similar to allergy shots in that they build up resistance to allergy symptoms and last for years, but they can be done safely and effectively at home. Officially called sublingual immunotherapy, allergy drops have been shown to be safe and effective, do not require an injection or an office visit, and have never caused a serious allergic reaction. The hundreds of thousands of patients who have been on allergy drops during this recent coronavirus pandemic are all continuing to treat their allergies effectively. As we move into the spring allergy season, they will have continued protection from their seasonal allergy symptoms. Alternatively, patients who have been on allergy shots are going to have a very symptomatic spring.

Pioneering Allergy Drops in Colorado

I first learned about allergy drops 15 years ago. At that time, almost no one in the United States was doing allergy drops, everyone was doing allergy shots. There was good data out of Europe showing safety and effectiveness of allergy drops. Allergy shots required a weekly office visit and carried a small risk of a life-threatening allergic reaction, while allergy drops required no office visits and had no significant risks associated with them. I decided to switch from allergy shots to allergy drops at that time. Since then, we have treated thousands of patients with drops. Our own experience has mirrored that of the published literature. Patient symptoms are significantly improved, their quality of life is much better, we only have to see them once a year instead of every week, and the likelihood of people continuing to do this for the full four-year treatment time is significantly more likely with drops than shots. Many studies over the last 20 years have been done comparing allergy shots to allergy drops. These studies have consistently shown that both allergy shots and allergy drops are better than medicines in treating allergy symptoms, with most studies showing similar effectiveness between shots and drops.

Continuing Care

The other improvement we found as we moved from allergy shots to allergy drops, was that we were not eliminating weekly office visits for these patients, but we were also freeing up our time to see patients who absolutely needed to be evaluated in the office. It has been a win-win all the way around. It is much easier and much more convenient for all of our patients, is clearly safer, allows us to invest the time needed into our other patients, and in the current climate has allowed us to continue to treat our allergic patients uninterrupted without endangering the health of the community. If you have allergies and are interested in at-home allergy drops, contact us today for an online consultation.