What is Allergen Immunotherapy?
Allergen immunotherapy, better known as allergy shots, is a form of treatment for patients to become desensitized to environmental allergens that are causing symptoms of rhinitis (runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, itchy and watery eyes) as well as conjunctivitis (itchy & watery eyes), or allergic asthma. Immunotherapy is a cost-effective, beneficial treatment for people looking to establish long-term relief to their allergy symptoms. Immunotherapy works similar to how vaccines do. You are injected with the allergens you tested positive for on our skin test, which are given in gradually increasing doses. This helps develop a patient’s immunity and resistance to the same allergens that cause us the most discomfort (American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology).
However, how do you know that immunotherapy is the best option for you? Here are some things to consider and ways to figure it out.
How Does Immunotherapy Work?
At AIRE Medical group, we have devised a comprehensive system for immunotherapy to provide our patients with the most efficient and effective care. There are two phases for allergy shots: the build-up phase and the maintenance phase. In the build-up phase patients will be receiving injections in increasing doses one to three times a week. It is necessary for patients to be coming in at least once every seven days in order to stay on track, however, for patients that wish to finish as soon as possible, they may come at least 48 hours between shots. At AIRE Medical, we try to be as accommodating to to our patients as possible by providing Saturday shot hours. Once a patient reaches the highest dose in their series of allergy shots, they will be in the “maintenance phase”. During this time patients will get to come in every two weeks, then three weeks, and eventually monthly. Allergy shots continue for a period of 3-5 years and the most clinical benefit is seen once on your maintenance dose for at least 6-12 months.
Risks & Benefits:
Allergy shots tend to work 80% of the time in minimizing upper and lower respiratory symptoms that are provoked by allergens. If effective, immunotherapy can provide long-term relief from current allergies, and in the case for children it can reduce the progression of other allergic conditions such as asthma and eczema. There are a few risks for allergy shots that our doctors will thoroughly review. There is typically a 10% chance of localized reactions at the site of the injection on your arms. There is a 0.6-2% chance of breaking out in hives (American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology), and a 1 in 1 million chance of anaphylaxis. We request patients to stay in the lobby 30 minutes after receiving their shots so we may monitor them and be in attendance in the case that any adverse reactions occur. Additionally, all individuals that start allergy shots are prescribed an epipen as a precautionary measure. We teach you how to use it and in what scenarios it would be required to use it. It is necessary for each patient to bring their epipen on the days they come in for shots.
Who Can Benefit From Allergy Shots?
Before beginning on allergy immunotherapy, it is important that you consider all factors to make sure you are receiving the greatest benefit from it. Patients should make sure they have made availability in their schedule to come at least once a week while in the build-up phase and are committed to continuing shots on a monthly basis for 3-5 years in order to receive the greatest results. Additionally, our doctors will be sure to discuss with you if you are a good candidate for immunotherapy. If you are committed to your health, and are looking for a long-term and effective solution to daily annoyances of allergies and want to reduce the amount of allergy medications you will have to take on a daily basis, then be sure to talk to your doctor about the possibility of beginning allergy immunotherapy!