Allergen Desensitization > Allergy Shots
Allergies are the result of a chain reaction that starts in the immune system. Your immune system controls how your body defends itself. For instance, if you have an allergy to pollen, your immune system identifies pollen as an invader or allergen. Your immune system overreacts by producing antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies travel to cells that release chemicals, causing an allergic reaction.
Allergy shots (or immunotherapy) are aimed at increasing your tolerance to allergens that trigger your symptoms every time you are exposed to them. An allergist/immunologist, often referred to as an allergist, is the most qualified physician to test which allergy you have and tell you if allergy shots are right for you.
Who can be Treated with Shots?
- Length of allergy season and the severity of your symptoms
- Whether medications and/or changes to your environment can control your allergy symptoms
- Your desire to avoid long-term medication use
- Time: immunotherapy requires a major time commitment
- Cost: may vary depending on your region and insurance coverage
In some patients that suffer from other medical conditions or who take certain common medications, allergy shots may be more risky. It is important to mention other medications you take to your allergist.
Who Should be Giving Allergy Shots?
How do Allergy Shots Work?
Allergy shots work like a vaccine. Your body responds to the injected amounts of a particular allergen (given in gradually increasing doses) little by little, developing a resistance and tolerance to it. Allergy shots can lead to decreased, minimal or no allergy symptoms when you are again exposed to the allergen(s) in the shot.
There generally are two phases to immunotherapy: build-up and maintenance.
The build-up phase, generally ranging from three to six months, involves receiving injections with increasing amounts of the allergens. The frequency of injections is once or twice a week, though more rapid build-up schedules are sometimes used.
The maintenance phase begins when the most effective dose is reached. This dose is different for each person, depending on how allergic you are and your response to the build-up phase. Once the maintenance dose is reached, there are longer periods between injections, typically two to four weeks.
When Will I Feel Better?
If you don't respond, it may be caused by:
- Not enough dose of the allergen in your vaccine
- Missing allergens not identified during your allergy testing
- High levels of the allergen in your environment
- Major exposure to non-allergic triggers (i.e. tobacco smoke)
When Should Allergy Shots be Stopped?
What are the Possible Reactions?
Most serious systemic reactions develop within 30 minutes of allergy injections. This is why it is strongly recommended you wait in the office for 30 minutes after your injections.
Your allergist is trained to watch for such reactions and his or her staff is trained and equipped with the proper medications to identify and treat them.
- Allergy shots are a treatment aimed at building up your tolerance to the substances that trigger your allergy symptoms.
- Allergy shots work like a vaccine. Your body begins to respond to the injected amounts of an allergen by developing resistance and tolerance to it.
- While most people may experience a permanent reduction of their allergy symptoms, others may not respond to allergy shots.
- An allergist can test you for allergies and tell you if allergy shots are right for you.
- Reactions are possible, but your allergist is trained to watch for them and his or her staff is trained to identify and treat them.
Feel Better. Live Better.
The right care can make the difference between suffering with an allergic disease and feeling better. By visiting the office of an allergist, you can expect an accurate diagnosis, a treatment plan that works and educational information to help you manage your disease.