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.