How do Allergy Shots Work?

How do Allergy Shots Work?

Allergy shots, also known as Allergen immunotherapy, is a form of long-term treatment that decreases symptoms for many people with allergic rhinitis, allergic asthma, conjunctivitis (eye allergy) or stinging insect allergy.

Immunotherapy works by decreasing sensitivity to allergens. These shots often lead to lasting relief of allergy symptoms even after treatment is stopped. This potential for life-long treatment is what makes allergy shots a cost-effective, beneficial treatment approach for many people.


Who Can Benefit from Allergy Shots?

Both children and adults can receive allergy shots. When considering allergy shots for an older adult, medical conditions such as cardiac disease should be taken into consideration and discussed with us first.

We typically decide if allergy shots are right for you based on the following criteria:
•    Length of allergy season and severity of your symptoms
•    How well medications and/or environmental controls are helping your allergy symptoms
•    Your desire to avoid long-term medication use
•    Time available for treatment (allergy shots requires a significant commitment)
•    Cost, which may vary depending on region and insurance coverage

Unfortunately, allergy shots are not used to treat food allergies. The best option for people with food allergies is to strictly avoid that food.


How Do They Work?

Have you ever gotten a vaccine? Well allergy shots work the same way. Your body responds to injected amounts of a particular allergen, given in gradually increasing doses. Over time, you develop immunity or tolerance to the allergen.

There are two phases of allergy shots:
•    Build-up phase– Over the course of about 3-6 months, you receive shots with increasing amounts of allergens about one to two times per week.
•    Maintenance phase– This phase starts after the effective dose is reached. The effective maintenance dose depends on your level of allergen sensitivity and your response to the build-up phase. Over the course of this phase, there will be longer periods of time between treatments, ranging from two to four weeks. We will decide what range is best for you.

Do allergy shots work? Yes, but they do not work for everyone. Also, they require a lot of patience and consistency. It may take up to a year on the maintenance dose to notice an improvement. If the allergy shots are successful, maintenance treatment is generally continued for three to five years. Any decision to stop allergy shots should be discussed with us first.


Allergy Induced Asthma

This article has been adapted from Thanai Pongdee, MD, FAAAAI

Oftentimes, it can be hard to discern whether an individual’s asthma is caused by allergies or not. Allergic and non-allergic asthma have similar symptoms but the causes are different.


Allergy Induced Asthma Causes

Allergy induced asthma is the most common form of asthma. If this is the type of asthma you have, it will be triggered by the inhaling of allergens. Allergens come in many different forms such as dust mites, pet dander, pollen or mold.

In allergy induced asthma, the allergen triggers a response that starts in the immune system. Through a complex reaction, these allergens then cause the passages in the airways of the lungs to become inflamed. This inflammation is what causes coughing, wheezing and other asthma symptoms.

Exposure to allergens may trigger the symptoms, but the real culprit in allergic asthma is the IgE antibody. The IgE antibody is produced by the body in response to allergen exposure. The combination of the antibody with allergens results in the release of potent chemicals called mediators. The mediators cause inflammation of the airways, resulting in symptoms of asthma.


Other Asthma Causes

Some people have asthma that is not triggered by allergens. Asthma symptoms may also be triggered by exercise, viral or bacterial infections, cold air or by related conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Knowing if your asthma is allergic or not is important for treating your condition. Given the relationship between allergies and asthma, an allergist/immunologist is the best qualified physician to diagnose your symptoms and help you manage your asthma.

Make an appointment today so we can help you find the cause of your asthma. We will do the best we can to improve your quality of life!


Antihistamines: What You Need to Know

So you have allergies. Now what? Antihistamines are typically the first thing people try to alleviate the symptoms of allergies. Before you head to your local drug store, read this article to find out a little more about them!

How Do Antihistamines Work?

When your body comes into contact with whatever you’re allergic to, whether it be dogs or dust, it creates chemicals called histamines. These chemicals cause changes in the tissues which result in symptoms such as stuffy nose, runny nose and eyes, and/or itchy eyes, nose, and sometimes mouth. Some people even develop a rash, called hives.

Antihistamines help to reduce allergy symptoms by reducing or blocking the histamines, hence the name antihistamines.

These medicines work well to relieve symptoms of different types of allergies, including hay fever, indoor allergies, and food allergies. But, unfortunately, they can’t relieve every symptom.

To treat nasal congestion, your doctor may recommend a nasal spray. These medications work best at relieving nasal congestion and come in the form of intranasal steroids, antihistamines, and even combinations of the two medications together.

Are there Different Types of Antihistamines?

Yes! Antihistamines can come in the form of tablets, capsules, liquids, nasal sprays, and eye drops. You can purchase some antihistamines over the counter, but some are only available by prescription.

Some prescription antihistamines include Optivar, Astelin, Patanase, Astepro, Palgic, Pataday, Atarax, Vistaril.

You are probably more familiar with the OTC antihistamines include Zyrtec, Chlor-Trimeton, Benadryl, Allegra, Alavert, Claritin, and most recently Xyzal has gone over the counter.

Side Effects of Antihistamines

There are 3 generations of antihistamines. Older generations tend to cause more side effects, particularly drowsiness.

Newer antihistamines have fewer side effects, so they may be a better choice for some people.

Some of the main side effects of antihistamines include dry mouth, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, restlessness or moodiness (in some children), trouble urinating or not being able to urinate, blurred vision and confusion.

If you take an antihistamine that causes drowsiness, do so before bedtime. Don’t take it during the day before you drive or use machinery.

Read the label before you take an allergy drug. Antihistamines may interact with other medications you are taking.

Talk to us first if you have an enlarged prostate, heart disease, high blood pressure, thyroid problems, kidney or liver disease, a bladder obstruction, or glaucoma. Also check with us if you are pregnant or nursing.

Come in and see us, and we will help you determine your allergy triggers and figure out which combination of medications are the right solution for you!