Many adults and children suffer from allergies. The sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, and congestion can make life difficult and in some cases unbearable. If over-the-counter and prescription medications are not effective in treating your allergies, you might want to consider getting allergy shots.
Allergy shots use allergen immunotherapy to desensitize patients to the things that trigger their allergic reactions. They have been used for over a century. Allergy shots alter the patient’s immune system by gradually blocking allergic reactions or reducing their severity. Allergen immunotherapy can be a long-term solution to manage allergies.
Allergy shots contain the substances to which the patient is allergic. The doctor starts out by giving a small concentration of the allergen and gradually increases it, which allows the body to develop a tolerance to it. A patient can receive shots containing several allergens at once. Patients usually receive up to four injections per visit.
Allergen immunotherapy can be used to treat patients as young as 5. When treating a child, it is important to consider how cooperative he or she is and the child’s ability to report any side effects or adverse reactions.
Allergy shots are different than steroid shots, which are sometimes used to temporarily treat severe allergies and are given once a year. Allergy shots are usually given weekly for six months to gradually and safely increase the concentration of allergens. After reaching the maximum concentration, shots are given monthly for three to five years and can then be stopped.
Allergen immunotherapy is very effective. It has a success rate of 75 to 85 percent and 90 percent for stinging insect venom. It is a good solution for people who do not want to take medication over the long term or who do not respond well to medication. Allergy shots cannot be used for food allergies because there is a high risk of a life-threatening reaction. If allergen immunotherapy is started at an early age, it can prevent asthma from developing or make it less severe.
Allergy shots are generally safe. You may experience warmth, redness, or minor swelling at the injection site as your immune system responds to the allergens. A severe allergic reaction is possible, so you should stay at your doctor’s office for observation for at least 30 minutes after getting shots. If you experience wheezing, coughing, hives, throat swelling, or low blood pressure, call your doctor right away so you can be treated with medication.
There is a higher risk of a reaction if you also have asthma. It is important to have your asthma well controlled before receiving allergy shots. You should not get allergy shots if you are sick or if your asthma is flaring.