Treating with immunotherapy
Several kind of medications may relieve or prevent your allergic systems, such as pills or sprays. Another kind of treatment is allergy shots, or immunotherapy. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), allergy shots are the only treatment that treats the cause of the allergy instead of just the symptoms. 2-4
If you feel that avoidance measures do not help as much as you would like and your need for allergy medication is significant, you should consult an Allergy Specialist regarding allergy shots to alleviate -- and possibly even eliminate -- your allergic disease.
What is allergy immunotherapy?
Allergy Immunotherapy (allergy shots) is a clinically documented treatment that considerably reduces or completely removes your allergy symptoms and the need for traditional, symptom-relieving medication. Until your immune system has had time to adjust, you may still need the medication you are already using. After three to six months, your need for drugs may decrease and your symptoms may become less severe. An additional effect of allergy shots is that it may prevent the onset of other allergies and the development of asthma. Studies have shown that children who were at an increased risk of developing asthma were able to resist the onset of asthma and see their existing allergic symptoms decrease after completing treatment.1
Also, the treatment has a long-standing effect after it is discontinued. New scientific studies have shown that results are maintained for 5 to 10 years after the course of allergy shots has been completed.5-16
How does immunotherapy work?
Immunotherapy occurs in two distinct phases: build-up and maintenance. The build-up process begins with the injection of a weak concentration of an allergen extract. Injections of increasingly stronger concentrations are given until you reach the maximum dose. This process typically takes several months but can vary based on your sensitivity to the injections and your specific treatment plan.
Once you have reached your maximum dose, you enter the “maintenance” phase of treatment. Immunotherapy is recommended for 3 - 5 years.17 However, the length of treatment, is determined by your degree of symptom severity and your physician’s recommendation.
What are the possible side effects of immunotherapy?
Although immunotherapy has been shown to be highly effective in treating the underlying cause of allergies, patients being treated may have side effects. Some individuals may experience itching and redness at the site of injection, while others may experience local swelling and soreness 8-12 hours after injection. Although these local reactions may produce discomfort, they are not serious. Serious systemic reactions can occur, but they are rare.
1 Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med / Vol. 156, Oct. 2002.
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16 Wilson DR, et al. Allergy 2005; 60: 4-12.
17 Cox, L, et al. Allergen immunotherapy: a practice parameter third update. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2011 Mar;127(3):840.