There are many medications on the market that promise to relieve your worst allergy symptoms. As most allergy sufferers know, these treatments are a only temporary trade: a few hours free from sniffles and sneezing for a lengthy list of side effects.

For those with severe or chronic allergies, allergy immunotherapy offers a better route to relief. This proven method introduces small amounts of allergens to your immune system over time, training it to better tolerate your allergy triggers. There are two ways allergy immunotherapy can be administered: allergy shots or allergy drops.

So, which is better? As with all medical treatments, only you and your doctor can decide which method is right for you. To help you begin that discussion, here’s a look at the pros and cons of allergy shots and allergy drops.

What are Allergy Shots?

Allergy shots are the traditional form of allergy immunotherapy. Also known as subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT), allergy shots involve regularly injecting a small amount of allergens into the skin to gradually build a tolerance in the immune system. Shots are administered in a doctor’s office one to two times per week for a period of six months, followed by monthly injections for three to five years. However, some patients receive weekly injections.

Pros of Allergy Shots

  • Time-tested. Allergy shots have used the exact same method for almost 100 years and have been historically proven to reduce or eliminate severe allergy symptoms.
  • Allergy shots are covered by most major insurance companies, making them an affordable choice for many patients (though copayments and deductibles may apply).

Cons of Allergy Shots

  • Require painful injections that may cause bruising, swelling, or redness at the injection site. This makes allergy shots an inconvenient treatment for children or those with trypanophobia (fear of needles).
  • Time-consuming. Every shot requires a trip to the doctor, resulting in years of costly and time-consuming commutes. Many patients cannot meet this significant time commitment and do not finish the recommended regimen.
  • Allergy shots have a risk of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction. Patients may require 30 minutes of monitoring after injections.

What are Allergy Drops?

Allergy drops, or sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT), are an alternative form of allergy immunotherapy. In this method, a low dose of compounded allergens are given daily as drops under the tongue, gradually increasing in strength to desensitize the immune system over time.

Pros of Allergy Drops

  • Allergy drops can be given in the comfort of your own home, eliminating the need for frequent trips to the doctor. Because of their convenience, patients are more likely to finish immunotherapy with drops as compared to shots.
  • Easy sublingual drops provide a painless approach to allergy relief.
  • Unlike allergy shots, allergy drops carry little risk of anaphylaxis or other adverse effects. No fatal reactions have ever been reported.
  • Broad Coverage. Allergy drops are effective at treating a broad range of environmental and food-based allergies. They can also be compounded to include multiple allergens in a single dose.

Cons of Allergy Drops

  • Although they use the same medications as traditional shots, allergy drops are not covered by all major insurance companies. However, many patients still find them affordable and may use HSA or FSA funds for allergy drops.