Allergy Shots
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

Allergy Shots Overview

Written by FoundHealth, ColleenO.

Type of Medication

Medicine administered as an injection just under the skin to help decrease allergic reactions

What Allergy Shots Are Most Frequently Prescribed For

  • Hay fever (also called allergic rhinitis)
  • Allergic asthma
  • Allergies to bee and insect stings

Allergy shots do not work on all allergies or on all people with allergies. For example, they are not used to treat food allergies .

Allergy shots should be considered for patients with severe symptoms that are difficult to control with medicines and when other forms of treatment have failed.

How Allergy Shots Work

Allergy shots decrease your sensitivity to allergens by exposing you to increasingly larger doses of the allergens to which you are allergic. An allergen is a substance that can produce an allergic, or hypersensitive response, often called an allergy attack. Pollen, dust mites, and mold spores are common allergens.

First, your doctor will use skin or blood tests to determine what you are allergic to. Then, a shot is made from small amounts of these specific allergens. With repeated shots, your body becomes less sensitive to these allergens, causing you to have a less severe allergic reaction or none at all.

It can take as long as 12 moonths of regular shots before you notice relief of your allergy symptoms.

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.

Dosing Schedule

Allergy shots are given year-round. For the first 3-6 months, you will get 1-2 shots per week (called the build-up phase). Then, a maintenance dose is injected every few weeks to once a month. You will receive these monthly shots for 3-5 years. After this time, you may be able to stop shots completely.

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.



American College of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology



Allergy Asthma Information Association

Calgary Allergy Network

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Food Allergy. Treatments for food allergies. Food Allergy website. Available at: . Accessed September 14, 2010.

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Mayo Clinic. Allergy shots. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: . Updated July 8, 2010. Accessed September 14, 2010.



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