Allergy Shots

What are Allergy Shots? What You Need to Know About Immunotherapy

allergy shots

Immunotherapy is a highly effective, long-term solution for seasonal allergy relief.

Allergies can be flat-out difficult to live with.

Allergic responses can release a cascade of uncomfortable and disruptive symptoms, from mild annoyances (runny nose) to alarming and potentially dangerous reactions (difficulty breathing). These symptoms can also cause sleep disruptions, leading to fatigue, distraction, and irritability.

Allergy symptoms can be frustrating. Fortunately, there's a treatment option that can significantly reduce their severity – allergy shots.

Why should I get allergy shots?

If you suffer from severe airborne or insect venom allergies that are impervious to other treatments, allergy shots could be a game-changer.

Allergy shots provide the following benefits:

  • Symptom relief
  • Reduces the need for additional therapies

With proper supervision, allergy shots can provide long-lasting symptom reduction and a better quality of life.

How do allergy shots work?

Allergy symptoms occur when the immune system reacts to a foreign substance, called an allergen, in the body. Allergy shots introduce small amounts of allergen into the bloodstream, causing a tolerance to build over time. Eventually, the body stops producing symptoms such as runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, and other reactions.

Common allergens that can be targeted with allergy shots include the following:

  • Mold spores
  • Dust mites
  • Pet dander
  • Pollen
  • Insect venom

During allergy shot treatment, the body produces antibodies that inhibit allergic responses.

The treatment course typically lasts between 3 and 5 years, during which patients receive regular injections to gradually build their immunity. Although it may take several months to see a noticeable improvement, immunotherapy can provide long-term relief for allergy sufferers.

Not all allergies can be managed with allergy shots; allergy shots cannot yet treat food, medication, or latex allergies.

What is in allergy shots?

Allergy shots contain a tiny amount of an allergen - a substance that can trigger an allergic reaction. The injections also include adjuvants and preservatives that enhance the treatment's effectiveness and stability.

How does the body react to allergy shots?

Allergy shots are a long-term therapy that can provide significant symptom relief for several years. Many patients find that allergy shots not only alleviate their symptoms but also prevent the development of new allergies. In some cases, allergy shots have even been shown to improve asthma symptoms, making them more tolerable.

Immunotherapy can benefit a wide variety of people who suffer from allergies. Those who may find relief from allergy shots include the following populations:

  • Individuals with asthma that is worsened by allergies
  • People with allergic rhinitis or allergic conjunctivitis
  • Those who are sensitive to insect venom

Although allergy shots are an effective treatment, knowing the potential risks is essential.

Reactions to allergy shots are relatively common, with most reactions being local, resulting in redness and swelling at the injection site. However, in rare cases, an individual may experience a systemic reaction that can be dangerous and affect the entire body.

To mitigate the risk of a dangerous immune response, staying in the office for 30 minutes after every shot appointment is necessary. Additionally, avoiding exercising for at least two hours following the shots is recommended.

How do allergy shots differ from vaccines?

Vaccination is a tool for infectious disease management. Introducing a weakened or inactivated form of a pathogen to the body prompts the immune system to produce antibodies to fight against the disease. This process creates immunity, which can protect people from getting sick if they are exposed to the disease in the future.

Allergen immunotherapy is a treatment that utilizes allergenic extracts, which are similar to vaccines, to alleviate allergy symptoms. These extracts are administered through injections, and, like vaccines, they contain preservatives and adjuvants that enhance their effectiveness and stability.

Allergy shots and vaccinations differ in their clinical and pharmacological details and active ingredients. However, both interventions can have side effects.

It is essential to be aware of the potential risks involved in any medical treatment. Nevertheless, complications are relatively rare in both allergy shots and vaccinations. In most cases, any side effects are mild and short-lived, such as local redness or swelling at the injection site.

How are allergy shots administered?

Your doctor will administer a skin test or blood test before beginning your allergy shot treatment. These tests confirm whether an allergy causes your symptoms. They also isolate the exact allergens that trigger your signs and reactions.

Treatment involves two phases - the build-up phase and the maintenance phase.

  • Phase I – Build-up: During the build-up phase, the patient receives regular injections containing increasingly larger amounts of the allergen. During the build-up phase, patients are given up to two weekly injections.
  • Phase II – Maintenance: Once the maintenance dose is reached, the patient continues to receive injections at that dose for a prolonged period, usually several years, to maintain the tolerance.

Are allergy shots worth it?

Allergy shots can be a cost-effective way to manage allergies, as they can significantly reduce the need for other, potentially more expensive, allergy treatments. By investing in allergy shots, patients can potentially eliminate the cost of symptom relief.

While it may take several months to see a noticeable improvement in symptoms, the benefits of allergy shots can last for years after treatment has ended.

If you're struggling with allergies, it's worth talking to the helpful representatives at Allergy Partners about whether allergy shots could be right for you.