ILIT allergy shots could reduce allergy immunotherapy by months or years

Typical injections to treat allergies can take as long as four or five years, with rounds of shots happening as frequently as every week. It can be an inconvenient process, especially for people who have busy schedules, like frequent travelers or kids in many sports and extracurriculars.

A newly available type of allergy shot, though, can cut that process down to two months with a series of just three shots.

How intralymphatic immunotherapy (ILIT) shots work

Intralymphatic immunotherapy (ILIT, pronounced “eyelet”) is a newer type of allergy immunotherapy treatment designed to help your body reduce its inflammatory response to certain allergens. ILIT’s effectiveness is similar to traditional allergy shots, which are typically given every week over a period that lasts from three to 10 months, then maintenance shots every month for several years.

ILIT shots, though, use a series of just three injections over a period of two months. The first injection is given, then a second injection is given about a month later, and the final, third injection is given a month after that.

What types of allergies can ILIT shots treat?

With ILIT, we can treat the same types of allergies that traditional allergy shots treat. That includes outdoor allergies (e.g., trees, grass, weeds) and indoor allergies (e.g., dust, dog and cat dander).

There is a limit to the number of allergies we can treat with each round of injections, but we can include a number of different allergens in one round — for example, we can include all of the pollen allergens in one series of ILIT injections, or all the indoor allergens.

Because a full series of ILIT shots takes only a couple of months, you can likely undergo an additional ILIT series for a different group of allergens soon after finishing one ILIT series.

Will ILIT allergy shots make my allergies go away forever?

We expect the same effectiveness with ILIT shots that we do with the traditional allergy shots that would take three to five years. We expect protection from allergies for years after that last ILIT injection.

Similar to traditional allergy shots, patients should expect to have less severe symptoms and greatly decrease their need for medications to control their symptoms.

Where can someone get ILIT allergy shots?

The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center is one of the first institutions to provide ILIT for allergy treatment. Ohio State also had a role in ILIT’s early allergy studies — one of the first pioneers in the ILIT world performed research at Ohio State and Nationwide Children’s Hospital in pediatric patients, so we helped with ILIT’s early development and research to show effectiveness.

What’s it like to receive ILIT allergy shots?

ILIT injections are done in an exam room, similar to any regular allergy appointment. ILIT shots are given in the inguinal lymph nodes in the groin, which is the safest and most painless area to target for this type of injection. These lymph nodes are just under the skin and are relatively easy to access.

Because we need to access the groin area, you’ll be asked to partially undress and wear a clean gown we’ve provided for you.

The injections are done with ultrasound guidance so that they’re as safe as possible — the ultrasound helps us find the exact spot to deliver medicine in your lymph nodes.

It doesn’t take more than a few minutes to give the actual shot, then you’ll be asked to stick around for a few minutes afterward to ensure that you don’t have an adverse reaction to the injection.

Are ILIT shots safe?

In the data we have so far, ILIT shots have shown to be even safer than traditional allergy shots.

ILIT hasn’t yet been approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), but that doesn’t mean the therapy isn’t safe and effective. Traditional allergy shots have been able to be FDA-approved because they’ve been around long enough to develop many years of data. ILIT is one of multiple treatments we use that plenty of research shows is safe and effective, but that we just don’t have the years of data yet to obtain FDA approval. For example, sublingual immunotherapy (allergy drops given under the tongue), which have long been in use, also haven’t yet been FDA-approved.

Who is a good candidate for ILIT allergy shots?

In order to receive ILIT injections, you need to make an appointment with an allergist at an institution that provides this allergy treatment. At Ohio State, you can even schedule allergist appointments online — you can get a referral from your regular doctor, but we don’t require referrals.

Allergy testing is needed to confirm which allergens cause reactions, because ILIT is such an individualized treatment. That allergy test can be performed with an allergist outside of Ohio State, but if your symptoms have changed recently or you haven’t received an allergy test within the last year or two, you might need an additional allergy test so that we can know exactly what type of ILIT treatment will be best for you. Allergy tests could be a skin test or blood test.

Are ILIT allergy shots covered by insurance?

Because ILIT isn’t yet approved by the FDA, patients have to pay out-of-pocket for the treatment. Each shot costs $1,100, so a three-injection series is $3,300.

Compared to insurance-covered treatments, that’s a lot of money. For some people, though, it isn’t much more than what they pay for traditional allergy shots over time, if they have a high-deductible insurance plan.

When compared to traditional allergy shots, ILIT may even cost less overall, if you consider the cost of travel, other medications and visiting the doctor for various allergy symptoms.

What options does someone have for allergy treatment if ILIT isn’t appropriate?

At Ohio State, allergy treatments include:

  • Allergy immunotherapy shots, or subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT) — these are the more traditional allergy shots that have been available for many years
  • Allergy immunotherapy drops, also known as sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) — these are drops that are given under the tongue. They’ve been used for multiple decades in Europe, Asia and Australia, but SLIT drops are relatively new to the United States.
  • Oral antihistamines
  • Nasal spray antihistamines
  • Nasal steroid sprays
  • Eye drops
  • Leukotrine modifiers (e.g., Singulair), which usually require a prescription
  • Decongestants
  • Glucocorticosteroids — a doctor might prescribe these to control inflammation from allergic reaction

Ready to learn more about allergy and immunology care?

Ohio State's allergy and immunology team provides comprehensive care backed by one of the nation's leading academic health centers.

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