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Allergy Shots (Allergen Immunotherapy)

What is Allergen Immunotherapy?

Allergen immunotherapy (allergy shots) is a clinically proven treatment that can reduce or eliminate your allergy symptoms. After a few months, your symptoms of a stuffy, runny nose and itchy, watery eyes can become less severe. The treatment is also helpful to reduce symptoms of asthma and may prevent the risk of asthma in some children. After the treatment is discontinued, it can provide long lasting improvement of symptoms for up to five to ten years.

What does allergen immunotherapy treat?

Immunotherapy is effective for allergies to stinging insects (bee, wasp, hornet), pollen (tree, grass, ragweed, weed), mold, cat, dog, and dust mites. It is also effective for treating allergic asthma. Immunotherapy has not been shown to be effective for food allergies or hives.

How is allergen immunotherapy given?

After your allergist performs skin tests to determine what you are allergic to, you will receive injections of a very small concentration of those substances. Your doctor will prepare specialized vials of allergens, tailored to your individual allergies. You will receive higher (and stronger) concentrations each week until you reach a top dose or a "maintenance" dose. Once you reach this concentration, you will quickly taper off to receiving your allergy shots once a month. The allergy physician societies recommend three to five years of treatment. However, you should notice improvement after a year.

Is allergen immunotherapy effective?

Allergy shots are effective for about 85% of patients with allergic rhinitis (hayfever).

Are there side effects?

Some people may have itching and redness at the site of injection, or local swelling up to 12 hours after the injection. Serious systemic reactions can occur, although they are rare. You must wait in the office for 30 minutes after each injection, so that we may monitor you for a serious reaction. We also give a prescription for an Epipen and train you in the use of the Epipen in case a reaction occurs after leaving our office. You must bring your Epipen to the office on the day you receive your allergy shot.

Are there precautions I should take?

Please tell your physician about all the medications you are taking, including eye drops. Certain medications, such as beta blockers (used for high blood pressure and glaucoma), may increase the risk of side effects. Your doctor will decide if you need to stop allergy shots if you are taking these medications.

Please talk to your doctor if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant during the course of your allergy shots, as she may need to alter your treatment plan.

When should I call my doctor:

If, after receiving your allergy shot, you develop shortness of breath, tightness or swelling of the throat, or any other symptoms of concern, please call your doctor and go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

References:

  1. American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
  2. ALK-Abello
  3. WebMD

 
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