Allergic Rhinitis and Allergy Shots
With immunotherapy, commonly known as "allergy shots," very small amounts of allergens are injected over weeks, months, or even years. The goal is to make your body's immune system less sensitive to those allergens.
Immunotherapy is often recommended for people who have developed severe side effects from medicine, or whose allergy symptoms do not respond well to medicine. It may also be helpful for people who have frequent, unavoidable exposure to allergens. Studies have shown that immunotherapy is effective in over 85% of people who receive the treatment consistently.
The purpose of immunotherapy is to decrease or eliminate your response to a particular allergen or group of allergens. This is done by injecting a very tiny extract of the allergen into the skin, and increasing the dose very gradually at regular intervals until the immune response to that allergen is decreased or eliminated. When you are exposed to an allergen in this way, your body begins to make some protective antibodies. Since the allergen dose starts out very small, you do not experience the usual symptoms despite exposure to the allergen.
Once your injections are at maintenance level, the frequency of injections will be reduced to every 2-4 weeks. Your doctor may monitor your immune response periodically with skin testing. Treatment will continue for 3-5 years until your allergic rhinitis symptoms have been significantly reduced or eliminated.
Once your injections are at maintenance level, the frequency of injections will be reduced to every 2-4 weeks. Your doctor will monitor your symptoms and may do skin testing. Treatment will continue for 3-5 years until your allergic response has been significantly reduced or eliminated.
Immunotherapy is a treatment program that will take 3-5 years to complete. If you are considering this form of treatment, you will need to make a commitment to receive these injections on a regular schedule. If you miss one or more treatments, there is a risk that your allergen immunity will be compromised, and you may need to begin the process again.
Precautions While Using These Medicines
Allergy Shots Should Not Be Taken Under These Conditions:
- Having severe asthma that is not controlled with medicine
- Having heart problems
- Taking a beta-blocker
Discuss Pregnancy with Your Doctor
Women who are pregnant should not begin allergy shots. However, if a woman has been receiving allergy shots for some time when she becomes pregnant, she may be able to continue.
Discuss Other Medications
Tell your doctor if you are taking or plan to take any medicines, including over-the-counter drugs, for both allergic and nonallergic conditions. Your allergy shots may affect the use of other medicines.
Continue Other Measures
Allergy shots can greatly reduce allergy symptoms, but are not a guaranteed cure. Therefore, you should continue to avoid known allergens while receiving shots.
Possible Side Effects
Allergy shots are usually safe. However, because they contain a small amount of an allergen, there is a risk of an adverse reaction. This may be as mild as swelling and redness at the site of the shot, which can last for 1-3 days. However, a serious, life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis can occur. Such a reaction is rare.
You will receive your shot in a doctor's office, and you will be asked to wait 30 minutes after the shot before leaving. If a bad reaction occurs, the medical personnel will be able to treat you immediately.