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    Immunotherapy (commonly referred to as “allergy shots”) is a safe and effective treatment for patients with allergies. It is based on the premise that people who receive injections of a specific allergen will lose sensitivity to that allergen. The most common allergens for which shots are given are house dust, cat dander, grass pollen, and mold.

    What are allergy shots?

    When medications fail to adequately control allergy symptoms and avoidance of the trigger is not easy or possible, an allergist may recommend immunotherapy or “allergy shots”. This treatment consists of a series of injections containing small amounts of the substances to which a person is allergic. After a course of allergy shots, 80 to 90 percent of patients have less allergy symptoms, and in many cases their allergies have completely resolved. Allergy shots can be given for allergic rhino-conjunctivitis (nose and eyes), allergic asthma and insect sting allergies.

    How does Immunotherapy work?

    Allergen immunotherapy desensitize your to specific allergens. Vaccine is given subcutaneously in gradually increasing doses. Body responds by developing an immunity or tolerance to the allergens. As a result of these immune changes, immunotherapy can lead to decreased, minimal or no allergy symptoms when you are exposed to the allergens included in the allergy vaccine.

    Who is candidate for allergy shots?

    Immunotherapy may be given to anyone over age 7 with allergies that do not get better with medication and who has had a positive allergy test to specific allergens. Immunotherapy is safe for pregnant women who are already receiving it, although half-strength doses are generally recommended, and it should not be started during pregnancy.

     

    What to Expect After each injection?

    You receive allergy shots in your allergist’s office. You will stay in the office for 20 to 30 minutes after you get the shots, in case you have a severe reaction to the injected allergens. Redness and warmth at the shot site are common, but they go away after a short period of time.

    How long I should be taken the allergy shots?

    A patient should not expect immediate improvement in their symptoms. It may require 4-6 months before any relief of allergy symptoms is noticed and it may take up to 12 months for the full benefit to occur. After reaching the maintenance dose, the interval between shots will be changed to 2-4 weeks, depending upon the patient’s allergy sensitivities. After obtaining good results for four years, a patient may discontinue allergy shots if a repeat skin test indicates that there are no longer sensitivities to aero-allergens.Therapy is continued for 3 to 5 years total, after which the patient continues to get benefit for another 5 to 10 years or longer, even after the shots are stopped.

     

    What is the difference between Immunotherapy injections versus sublingual Immunotherapy?

    Immunotherapy has been given by injection for more than 60 years and many studies prove that it is effective. A number of studies published in the last 5 years have shown that very high dose sublingual immunotherapy, where several drops of the allergen extract are retained under the tongue for a few minutes, then swallowed, can also be effective.

     

    How well immunotherapy works?

    Allergy shots are effective in treating allergic rhinitis and allergic asthma. The shots reduce symptoms in those allergic to pollens, animal dander, dust mites, mold, and cockroaches.

    What are the major side effects of Immunotherapy?

    If complications or allergic reactions develop, they usually occur within 20 minutes, although some can develop up to 2 hours after the shot is given.

    Side effects of immunotherapy include:

    • General itching, swelling, red eyes, hives, soreness at the injection site.
    • Less common side effects are low blood pressure, asthma worsening, or difficulty breathing.
    • In rare cases, particularly because of excessive doses or if a patient has a serious lung problem, severe reactions can occur, which can be life threatening.

     

     

     

    Who should not get allergy shots?

    Allergy shots should not be used when you:

    • Have had a recent heart attack, unstable angina, or other heart conditions or are taking beta-blockers.
    • Are unable to communicate.
    • Most doctors do not give allergy shots to children younger than 5.
    • Have an immune system disease such as AIDS.

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