Allergy Shots

Immunotherapy


Once our allergists know the allergens that are causing your symptoms, an effective treatment plan can be recommended. These treatment plans may include avoidance, which is proven to be the best defense against allergens, or medications.

Because it is often impossible to avoid allergens that can trigger your allergies, immunotherapy, or allergy shots, have become the most effective treatment plan for inhalant allergens and stinging insect allergies. While there is not a currently known “cure” for allergies, allergy shots are the only way to suppress the underlying allergy response for long-term relief.

While allergy shots have been proven to be effective against inhalant allergies and stinging insect allergies, they can not used for food allergies.

Allergy shots increase your  body’s tolerance to allergens. By injecting gradually increasing doses of the offending allergen extract, the immune system builds up a tolerance to that allergen. Allergy shots slow down and reduce the production of the IgE antibody. You can think of each shot as adding a brick to the “wall of protection” against things that trigger your allergies.

Studies have shown that allergy shots are a very cost-effective way to treat allergies. They have been shown to reduce medication requirements and improve the quality of life in those patients who take them. They are the only long-term way to bring symptoms under control in those patients who have significant allergic disease.

Speak with our board certified allergy and asthma physicians to determine the best treatment option for your allergic triggers.

How do allergy shots work?

Allergy shots are usually administered two to three times weekly at the beginning of the treatment procedure. With this rapid build up, improvements can occur within three to four months and will usually be at its full benefit within the first 12 to 18 months. In a typical treatment schedule, shots are tapered to weekly intervals once maintenance is reached (usually at three to six months) then every two weeks at 12 months, then every three to four weeks after 18 to 24 months. Over time, and as the dosage is increased, the patient will gradually develop a stronger tolerance for his or her allergic triggers. During this time symptoms can be decreased, minimized or even eliminated. Most people can discontinue the treatment after about five years.

Per the American Academy of Pediatrics, age is not a barrier to skin testing – even infants can benefit.  Children can also receive allergy shots.  The age in which shots may be recommended to young children is done on a case-by-case basis.  While there has been some disagreement in the medical community about the role of allergy shots in children younger than 5, there have been multiple studies showing effectiveness for this age group. Research has also shown that allergy shots can prevent children who have allergic rhinitis from getting asthma.

You should always consult with an allergy and asthma specialist before beginning a series of allergy shots. Your shot schedule will be individualized by our board certified allergists. They are the only providers who receive specialized training in this procedure.

 

Who is an ideal candidate for allergy shots?

If you are able to avoid the trigger of your allergies or if usual doses of medications control your symptoms, then immunotherapy might not be needed. You may benefit from allergy shots if:

  • medications to control your symptoms (i.e., antihistamines, decongestants) do not work
  • medication used to control your symptoms produces too many side effects
  • complications (i.e., sinus infections, ear infections) develop
  • you have asthma triggered by allergies
  • you are at risk of developing anaphylaxis (a severe reaction that, in some cases, may be fatal) when exposed to an allergen (As noted above: Allergy shots are not used for food allergy)
  • medications control your symptoms, but your symptoms flare back up every time you try to reduce your medications
  • you can’t effectively avoid things that trigger your allergies
  • you would rather take a series of allergy shots than daily medications
  • you would rather treat the actual problem rather than just use medications to control symptoms
  • cost of the medications is a burden, allergy shots are very cost effective compared to the use of daily prescription medications over several years

What happens if my allergies go untreated?

Allergies can be the underlying cause of frequent sinus, ear and upper and lower respiratory tract infections. Untreated allergies can even exacerbate or cause asthma; The Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology states “approximately 80 percent of all asthma in children and half of all asthma in adults is caused by allergies.”

Allergies are responsible for symptoms that may make it difficult for you to stay productive in your work, school and home life. Don’t let your allergies control you, take control of your allergies.

What are allergy drops and tablets?

Allergy drops (Sublingual immunotherapy or SLIT), is a desensitization treatment in which patients’ self-administer allergen drops under their tongue on a daily basis. Although not as effective as allergy shots, medical research done both in Europe and the United States has found that SLIT therapy is quite safe and effective at building a patient’s tolerance to allergic triggers and ultimately improving symptoms. SLIT may be an option for certain types of allergy patients, but SLIT is not yet approved by the FDA. Therefore at this time, insurance companies are not reimbursing for this form of immunotherapy.

Allergy Tablets are another form of oral immunotherapy and have recently been approved by the FDA for use in the United States. These fast-dissolving tablets are placed under the tongue and work to help the body build tolerance to allergens through consistent exposure. In general they are less effective than allergy shots. Allergy shots have an effectiveness of over 80%. Allergy tablets are in the range of 40-60% effective. The tablets only contain one type of allergen and are indicated for people with allergies to grass or ragweed. Allergy tablets require a prescription, and it is required that a patient be allergy tested prior to being prescribed the tablet(s). The cost of the tablets will vary based on your insurance. At this time, we expect the cost to be comparable to allergy shots for most patients.

Speak to one of our board certified allergists to determine what the best possible individualized care is for you.