Allergen immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, is a form of treatment that decreases symptoms for many people with allergic rhinitis, allergic asthma, allergic conjunctivitis, eczema or stinging insect allergy. The goal of the shots is to decrease sensitivity to allergens and they may lead to long-lasting relief even after treatment is stopped.
Allergy shots can be beneficial to any patient with positive testing to environmental allergens or stinging insect venom. The shots can begin as early as age five. Adults with other medical conditions, such as cardiac disease, may not be able to receive shots. This can be discussed with your allergist.
Allergy shots are similar to receiving a vaccine. Skin testing will be used to create a serum specific to each patient. Your immune system responds to the vaccine by developing tolerance to allergens that previously caused symptoms. It may take up to 12 months of receiving the shots to notice an improvement in symptoms as the dose has to be gradually increased. Peak improvement is noticed between years 2 and 3. Maintenance treatment is typically continued for 5 years.
In children, allergy shots may prevent the progression from allergic rhinitis to asthma. The effectiveness of the shots is related to the length of treatment and the dose of the allergen. Many patients experience lasting relief after stopping the shots, however, some patients do relapse after stopping. The decision to stop allergy shots will be discussed with your allergist.
Redness, swelling and/or itching at the injection site can occur. Rarely, systemic reactions do occur. These may include shortness of breath, nausea, throat tightness/swelling, and/or dizziness. The highest risk for serious reactions is in the first 30 minutes after receiving the injections. For this reason, the shots must be given in a supervised setting where emergency equipment is available and patients must remain in the office for 30 minutes after the shots. If it is not convenient to receive the shots in our office, our staff can work with you to send the serum to an alternate location.