Immunotherapy is one form of long-term treatment that can be beneficial for people with several different types of  allergies. They help by decreasing sensitivity to allergens, and in many cases can lead to lasting relief even after the treatment has finished.

Are allergy shots right for you? Find out here.

Is It Right For You?

People of all ages can receive allergy shots, though they aren’t generally recommended for children under five years old due to possible difficulties these children may have in cooperating and describing their allergy symptoms. If allergy shots are being considered for an older adult, consider conditions like cardiac disease. Other factors that play into your decision as you discuss immunotherapy with your allergist may include:

  • • The length of your allergy season and the severity of your symptoms
  • • How well medications or environmental controls are helping with allergy symptoms, and whether any medication side effects or interactions with other medications are bothersome
  • • Your desire to avoid using allergy medications long term
  • • Time available for treatment—allergy shots require a notable commitment of time
  • • Cost—this can vary depending on your insurance and your region

Allergy shots are not used for food allergies, and they also aren’t available for chronic hives (urticaria).

How They Work

Allergy shots are very similar to a vaccine in how they work. Small amounts of an allergen are injected in gradually increasing doses, which help the body develop tolerance to that allergen over time. There are two phases of immunotherapy:

  1. Build-up: This phase involves receiving injections with increasing amounts of allergens once or twice per week. The length of this phase will depend on how often injections take place, and will generally last three to six months.
  2. Maintenance: During maintenance, the effective dose has been reached—this depends on your level of allergen sensitivity and your body’s response to the build-up. The maintenance phase has longer periods of time between treatments, often two to four weeks. It may take as long as 12 months on the maintenance dose to notice an improvement, and if successful, maintenance will be continued for three to five years.

Allergy shots should be supervised by a specialized physician with the proper staff and equipment. Ideally, they are given in your allergist’s office.  

Effectiveness

Allergy shots have shown effectiveness decreasing many allergy symptoms and preventing new allergies. They can also prevent the progression of allergic disease to asthma in children. It appears that allergy shot effectiveness is related to the length of treatment and the allergen doses—some people find lasting relief while others may relapse after treatment stops.

When the body fails to respond to allergy shots, it could be due to the following factors:

  • • An inadequate dose of allergen in the vaccine
  • • Missing allergens that were not identified during evaluation
  • • High levels of allergen present in the environment
  • • Significant exposure to non-allergic triggers like tobacco smoke

Risks

There are a few risks associated with allergy shots:

  • • Redness or swelling: A typical reaction at the injection site that can take place either immediately or several hours later.
  • • Increased allergy symptoms: Sneezing, nasal congestion or hives.
  • • Serious reactions (rare): An anaphylactic reaction can include throat swelling, chest wheezing or tightness, nausea and dizziness. These reactions will usually develop within 30 minutes of injection, and will require immediate medical attention. It’s generally recommended that you wait at least 30 minutes in your doctor’s office after you receive allergy shots in case this type of reaction is present.

To find out if allergy shots might be a good solution for your allergies, speak to your allergist.

Our Utah Valley allergy specialists diagnose and treat patients who suffer from allergic and immunologic disorders. We work with both pediatric and adult patients and use the most comprehensive and up-to-date medical therapies.

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Sources:

“Allergy Shots (Immunotherapy).” American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/treatments/allergy-shots-(immunotherapy)

“Allergy shots.” The Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/allergy-shots/basics/definition/prc-20014493

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