Allergy shots are one of the best treatments for allergies and asthma. They can be used to treat a variety of allergic problems. Over 85% of patients on shots have a favorable response. These shots contain all-natural proteins that are found in allergens. It is one of the few disease-modifying therapies available that targets the underlying cause of allergic conditions. In children, allergy shots are particularly helpful because they reduce the risk of developing asthma and becoming more allergic as they grow up.
Allergy shots offer:
- Improved asthma control
- Relief from allergy and sinus symptoms
- Reduce the need for allergy medications
Patients diagnosed with nasal allergy deciding to receive allergen injections may choose to receive an accelerated schedule of injections to shorten the initial build-up period. Our practice offers a new approach known as “cluster build up” whereby patients receive multiple allergen injections during four 3 hour visits, greatly reducing the time needed to reach effective maintenance doses from 6 to 2 months. Cluster build-up would allow patients to see favorable responses much sooner than with traditional approaches.
When to get allergy shots?
Allergy shots are recommended for patients with severe allergy symptoms not controlled with medication or for those unable to tolerate medications. Allergy shots are best suited for patients with perennial (year round) or prolonged seasonal symptoms. Shots are strongly recommended in patients who develop asthma symptoms after exposure to dust mite, cats, mold spores and pollens. Venom injections are required in those patients who have experienced severe, potentially life-threatening reactions after being stung by bees, wasps, hornets or yellow jackets.
What is the procedure?
A treatment vial is customized for each patient. It consists of a mixture of protein extracts of the offending allergens previously identified by history and skin testing. From this vial, dilutions are made which will be injected at increasing strengths to build up productive antibody levels. Starting at very dilute concentrations, a series of injections are given underneath the skin over a strict time schedule. For traditional IT, initially shots are given once or twice a week. The interval between shots is increased with a goal of reaching a maintenance dose which is given every 2 to 4 weeks. It takes 4 to 5 months for symptoms to improve. After reaching the target maintenance dose, allergy shots are continued for 3 to 5 years in most patients.
Do allergy shots work?
Once the maintenance dose of allergen is reached, immunotherapy is effective in about 85% of patients being treated for allergic rhinitis and in about 70% of individuals with allergic asthma. Shots modify allergic symptoms making them more tolerable for the patient. They also reduce the need for additional medications and frequent doctor visits. In children, there is evidence suggesting that shots can modify the natural (?) history of allergic asthma.
Allergy shots during pregnancy?
Studies have shown that pregnant women can continue shots throughout pregnancy if they were previously receiving shots prior to becoming pregnant. There is no significant risk of this therapy to mothers or their babies. Immunotherapy, however, is never started during pregnancy.