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Feel Good Again With Allergy Shots
Allergen immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, is a form of treatment that is aimed at decreasing sensitivity to allergens. It has been shown to prevent the development of new allergies and can lead to the long lasting relief of allergy symptoms after treatment is stopped.
Immunotherapy is recommended for people with allergic asthma, rhinitis, and conjunctivitis and with allergies to stinging insects. Immunotherapy for food allergies is not recommended. The best option for people with food allergies is to strictly avoid that food.
The decision to begin immunotherapy will be based on several factors, including
Length of the allergy season and severity of symptoms
How well medications and/or environmental controls control allergy symptoms
Desire to avoid long-term medication use
Time (immunotherapy will require a significant time commitment)
Cost (may vary depending on region and insurance coverage)
Allergen immunotherapy works like a vaccine. You will be injected with increasing amounts of an allergen over several months. The body responds to the injected amounts of the allergen by developing an immunity or tolerance to it. As a result, allergy symptoms can be decreased or minimized when the person is exposed to that allergen in the future.
There generally are two phases to immunotherapy a build-up phase and a maintenance phase. The build-up phase involves receiving injections with increasing amounts of the allergens. The frequency of this phase generally ranges from one to two times per week. The duration of this phase depends on the frequency of the injections, but it generally ranges from five to 10 months.
The maintenance phase begins once the effective therapeutic dose is reached. The effective maintenance dose is different for each person, depending on his or her level of allergen sensitivity and response to the immunotherapy build-up phase. During the maintenance phase, there will be longer periods of time between immunotherapy treatments, ranging from two to four weeks. Your doctor will decide what range is best for you.
People receiving immunotherapy may notice decreasing symptoms during the build-up phase, but it may take as long as 12 months on the maintenance dose for maximal improvement.
If improvement is not seen after a year of maintenance therapy, work with your doctor to discuss possible reasons treatment failed and other treatment options.
If immunotherapy is successful, maintenance treatment is generally continued for three to five years. Some individuals may experience lasting remission of their allergy symptoms, but others may relapse after discontinuing immunotherapy. Therefore, the decision to stop immunotherapy must be discussed with your doctor.
Rarely, a serious systemic reaction, called anaphylaxis, can develop after an immunotherapy injection. Symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction can include swelling in the throat, wheezing or a sensation of tightness in the chest, nausea or dizziness. Most serious reactions develop within 20-30 minutes of the allergy injections. This is why it is recommended that you wait in the doctors office for 20-30 minutes after your allergy injections. Your doctor is trained to monitor for such reactions, and the staff is trained to identify and treat systemic reactions.
Consult with your doctor if you think allergy shots may benefit you.