Allergy Shots (Immunotherapy)

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What is immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy is a treatment used to relieve allergy symptoms of hay fever or allergic asthma by administering injections of substances such as pollen, molds, animal dander, or insects to which an individual has been found to be allergic by skin testing.

Some Benefits of Allergy Injections

Proven effective in patients with allergic rhinitis (Hay fever), allergic asthma and stinging insect allergy

Reduction in number of upper respiratory infections that require antibiotics

Reduction in use of medications to control your allergies

Improved quality of life compared to standard medical therapy

Recent studies indicate immunotherapy may delay or prevent the onset of childhood asthma

Most patients experience significant benefit after 3-6 months of therapy

More convenient than daily medication to control symptoms

More cost effective in long run compared to daily medication use

In patients allergic to stinging insects, immunotherapy can reduce risk of severe allergic reaction with a repeat sting from 60% to less than 5%

Some Drawbacks or Risks of Allergy Injections

Anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction) from receiving immunotherapy

Not a “quick fix” — usually takes 3-6 months to experience benefit and 3-5 years before injections stop

May not be covered fully by all insurance companies

Requires frequent visits to reach standard effective dose

Still requires patient to continue medication during build up phase

How are injections given and for how long?

Typically allergy injections are given once or twice a week until a predetermined target or “maintenance” dose is achieved. This usually takes 3-6 months (approximately 22 injections). Injections are usually continued for 3-5 years of maintenance therapy. At that time, you and your doctor will make a decision about whether to gradually taper your shots or to continue the injections longer.

Reactions to immunotherapy

Local reactions (swelling, itching or tenderness at the injection site) may occur in some patients and usually subside in a day or less. Large local reactions and generalized (systemic) reactions may occur in 1-5 % of patients receiving allergy injections and usually occur in the build up phase, although they can occur at anytime during the course of the treatment. These reactions necessitate a dosage adjustment. Generalized reactions may consist of any or all of the following symptoms:

Hives, itchy eyes, nose or throat, runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing

Tightness in the chest and or throat, coughing and or wheezing

Nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramps

Lightheadedness or faintness and sometimes shock

Treatment of reactions

Simple local reactions that consist of swelling of the arm, redness and/or tenderness at the site of the injection are best handled with simple measures such as, local cold compress or use of medications such as, an antihistamine. For systemic reactions adrenaline (epinephrine) is usually given to counteract the reaction. Severe reactions are treated with various methods and may include hospitalizations or emergency room visits. If you experience a generalized reaction after leaving our office, please return to the office or proceed to the nearest emergency room (ER).