About 30% of all adults and 40% of children suffer from some type of allergy. Typically, treatment for allergies focuses on avoiding triggers or managing symptoms. However, some patients hope to find more long-term relief from allergy symptoms. Allergy shots, or immunotherapy, can provide significant benefits for many allergy patients.
How do the shots work?
People who suffer from severe allergies, such as chronic rhinitis allergic asthma, or eye allergy, may benefit from allergy shot treatment. Also called immunotherapy, this treatment works by decreasing a patient’s sensitivity to the allergen. These shots work similarly to vaccines by exposing the body to small amounts of the allergen to increase tolerance.
What is the treatment process?
Allergy shots go in phases. Each phase exposes the patient to an increasing amount of the allergen to build immunity. During the build-up phase, patients receiving increasing dosages of the shot every 1-2 weeks. The length of the build-up phase varies according to the patient’s unique situation; however, this phase commonly continues for 3-6 months. When the effective maintenance dose is reached, patients enter the maintenance phase. The length of time between shots will vary, based on the discretion of the healthcare provider.
Factors to consider
Allergy shots can offer symptom relief for both children and adults. Before starting immunotherapy, there are some key factors to consider.
- How severe are allergy symptoms?
- Do allergies occur year-round or only during specific seasons?
- Are environmental changes improving allergy symptoms?
- Are allergy medications working?
- Does the patient have the available time to commit to allergy shots?
- What is the cost of the various treatment options?
Is treatment effective?
Many patients experience significant symptom improvement through immunotherapy. Some people experience long-term relief, while others may have symptoms return after stopping the treatment. In some cases, if the treatment is not effective this may be because the patient has unidentified allergens or is exposed to a considerable amount of allergens. If patients are not seeing any symptom improvement after a year of immunotherapy, other treatment options may be explored.
Additional treatment options
In some patients, allergy medications are effective in managing symptoms. Sometimes, over-the-counter medications can do the trick. In other cases, patients may need a stronger prescription. Additionally, patients should identify and avoid allergy triggers to prevent reactions. In severe cases, an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist or allergist may prescribe that a patient carries a dosage of epinephrine for emergency allergic reactions. To learn more about allergies and treatment options, speak with an ENT.