New treatment for fall allergies

October 19, 2010

Allergies affect nearly a quarter of the adult population. As the weather turns cooler, there are certain triggers that account for most of our fall allergies; these include common culprits like ragweed, mold, and dust mites.

While some of us experience mild symptoms, many people require treatment beyond simple antihistamines or topical medication. For those of us with more severe allergies, there is a new method of relief. Weiss Memorial Hospital now offers a new allergy treatment option called Sublingual (Under the Tongue) Immunotherapy. Instead of regular allergy shots and needles, this self-administered alternative comes in the form of droplets, which are put under the tongue three times daily.

During the summer of 2009, Janaki Emani, M.D., became the first physician in Chicago to offer under the tongue immunotherapy. The droplets are formulated to each patient's specific needs. For example, if patients have a pollen allergy, the droplets contain a pollen extract. Though purified and filtered, the substance itself is being placed under the tongue.

Allergies occur when cells misinterpret certain elements such as pollen, grass or animal fur as harmful, and signal the immune system to attack. However, curative therapies such as shots and droplets applied regularly and over long periods of time can teach the body not to respond to allergens. The biggest difference between droplets and shots is that patients who use the droplets don't need a physician to administer them. The patient dispenses the droplets, without having to make a trip to the physician's office, making it a convenient alternative. Because the patient receives the allergens multiple times a day, the doses are smaller than with once-weekly shots, Droplets are taken multiple times a day in doses smaller than those administered in a weekly injection, reducing the likelihood of a severe or even fatal allergic reaction.

The therapy originated in Wisconsin 40 years ago. Europeans use it too--in the form of a dissolvable tablet that patients place under the tongue to combat grass allergies. The idea behind this form of treatment dates back to ancient medicinal practices common among Native Americans and the Chinese, who would chew on substances to which they had a systemic reaction. Some Native Americans, for example, hunted in areas heavy with poison ivy and would place small amounts of the plant in their mouths at night. Over time, their reactions to it decreased.

Some insurance companies do not recognize the droplets as an insurable form of treatment, but the cost ends up being comparable because patients don't make weekly office co-pays.

Call Weiss' physician referral line at (800) 503-1234 to schedule an appointment, or visit for more information.


Dr. Janaki is an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT)/Otolaryngology physician, specializing in head and neck surgery at Weiss Memorial Hospital. She is also clinical associate at University of Chicago. During the summer of 2009, Dr. Emani became the first physician in Chicago to offer sublingual immunotherapy. She attended Northwestern University for medical school and University of Chicago for her residency


No shots or needles
Lower dosage
Lessens risk of reaction

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