Resource Center: Allergy Shots (Immunotherapy)
For those suffering from long term allergies, allergen immunotherapy is appealing. This therapy is also known as “allergy shots” and is a course of treatment for a number of allergies (allergic rhinitis, allergic asthma, conjunctivitis). It works to decrease sensitivity to the trigger allergens and can result in a resolution of symptoms (or lessening of symptoms) even after the therapy has stopped.
Who Can Benefit From Allergy Shots?
While anyone can receive this type of therapy, doctors do not recommend the treatment for very young children (under five). Also, other medical conditions must always be taken into account and discussed with your care team.
The decision to undergo this therapy should always be a discussion you have with your allergist or immunologist. Some things you may want to include in that discussion:
- How long have you been suffering from this allergy, and how severe are your symptoms?
- Are you able to manage your symptoms by controlling your environment and medication?
- Are you trying to avoid long-term medication?
- Does your insurance cover the treatment?
How does this therapy actually work?
Think of it as a vaccine. The doctor will inject you with a specific amount of your trigger allergen. Each shot will slowly and gradually include more of the allergen. This helps your body to develop a tolerance and immunity to your allergen.
This happens in two specific phases:
• Phase one: Build-up – This phase will take about 4-6 months. You would have injections once a week, with slowly increasing amounts of your trigger allergens. The length of the phase will rely on how you tolerate the injections.
• Phase two: Maintenance phase – This phase will be different. Once the doctor establishes that your “effective” dose is reached, there are longer times between treatments (anywhere from two weeks to a month).
This phase is when you may start to see a lessening in symptoms when exposed to your trigger allergen. It can take as long as one year to notice an improvement. Maintenance shots are usually given for 3-5 years.
How Effective Are Allergy Shots?
Allergy shots have shown to decrease symptoms of many allergies. It can prevent the development of new allergies, and in children, it can prevent the progression of allergic disease from allergic rhinitis to asthma. The effectiveness of allergy shots appears to depend on the length of the treatment program as well as the dose of the allergen. Some patients experience lasting relief from their allergy symptoms, while other patients may relapse after discontinuing allergy shots. If you have not seen improvement after a year of maintenance therapy, your allergist/immunologist will work with you to discuss treatment options.
Treatment failure can be due to a number of different reasons:
- Too small a dose of allergen in the injections
- An allergen not identified in the originating evaluation
- The environment being very high in levels of trigger allergen
- High level of exposure to triggers that are not allergic (tobacco smoke etc)
Where can I get allergy shots?
Shots can only be given in your allergist’s office. You can not do them at home.
Are There Risks?
There are risks, as with any medical treatment. An average reaction is slight injection site pain, redness, and swelling. Sometimes this occurs at the time of injection, other times, hours later. In some situations, allergy symptoms can temporarily increase (sneezing, nasal congestion, hives)
Having the shots in the allergist’s office is for those few, rare, times where there is a serious reaction to allergy shots. In these cases, immediate medical attention is required. These can include anaphylactic reactions. If you were to have a serious reaction, it would typically happen within 30 minutes, which is why we recommend remaining in the office after your shot for observation.
1030 St. Georges Avenue, Suite 200
Avenel, New Jersey 07001 [map]
In the “Eastern Dental Building”
(p) 732-636-8844 (f) 732-634-3498
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- Thursdays (1:00pm - 6:00pm)
We accept same-day appointments (based on availability).