Allergy Shots (Immunotherapy)
Allergy immunotherapy is form of desensitizing to environmental allergens such as grass pollens, tree pollens, house mites, cat, or dog. Allergy immunotherapy is not available for foods. It involves giving gradually increasing doses of the allergen to which the patient is allergic to. The increasing doses of the allergen cause the immune system to be less sensitive over time, without causing a full reaction. When the allergen is encountered the symptoms are greatly reduced.
The allergy immunotherapy takes commitment if it is the chosen form of therapy. The shots are given once a week until a maintenance dose is reached. A small amount of allergy extract is injected in the arm. One the maintenance dose is reached, the shots can be administered biweekly and gradually decrease to monthly. The total duration of therapy can be anywhere from three to five years.
Allergy immunotherapy is a beneficial treatment if:
- It is impossible to avoid the things that cause the allergic reaction, and allergy medication do not control the symptoms
- The allergy medications cause unwanted side effects
- The allergy medications interfere with other medication.
Side Effects / Risks
- Local reaction may occur, which involves redness, swelling, or irritation at the injection site. The reaction tends to clear up within a few hours with topical cortisone cream.
- System reactions, which can include nasal congestion, hives, or and sneezing
- In rare cases anaphylaxis may occur. It is rare but life-threatening reaction that causes low blood pressure and trouble breathing. If the regular schedule of shots is maintained, anaphylaxis is extremely rare.
Allergy immunotherapy is a very effective form of therapy that is beneficial for a majority of the patients. It requires time and patience. It takes time to desensitize the body, and symptoms do not stop overnight. Patients tend to notice a difference after a few months of therapy. After a duration of three years, patients are usually desensitized to the allergens that are in the shots. After three years, a decision will be made between the patient and the physician as to when and if shots will be stopped