What are Allergy Shots?

More than half (54.6%) the population in the United States suffer from one or more allergies. A lot of allergy sufferers complain of the problem being persistent. Medications like anti histamine and decongestants provide only temporary relief.

Allergy shots or Allergen immunotherapy was devised with the aim of bringing long term relief for allergy sufferers.

What is the mechanism behind Allergy Shots?

It is a form of immunotherapy or vaccination where the patient is vaccinated with gradually increasing doses of the antigen causing the allergy. The process is started with a small dose of the vaccine. Gradually and consistently the dosage is increased. The process of desensitization sets in gradually. The body stops reacting adversely to the proteins causing allergies. It starts to identify the protein and reacts favorably to it. The white blood cells produces less of the IgE antibodies and immunological tolerance sets in gradually.

Allergy ShotsWho is the right candidate for Immunotherapy?

  • It can be safely administered in healthy adults and children above 5 years of age.
  • Individuals suffering from allergy symptoms so much that it has affected their quality of life. Inspite of taking medications, the symptoms do not improve.
  • Individuals who have side effects to allergy medications like antihistamines or decongestants.
  • However, individuals having heart disease, severe asthma, high blood pressure, glaucoma, pregnancy should not opt for immunotherapy.
  • Individuals on beta blocker drugs for heart problems and drugs called monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors cannot take the shots.
  • The shots do not work well for food allergens. All other allergies which persist throughout the year like that to dust, mold, mildews, animal dander etc.

What is the Immunotherapy regimen?

  • A preliminary examination by the allergist is extremely important. The medical history of the patient needs to be considered. It is important to find out what allergens the individual is allergic to in order to administer the right kind and amounts of the antigen. Various tests are also conducted to ensure that the small doses of the antigen do not invoke an extreme reaction in the patient as in Anaphylaxis.
  • Very small amounts of the antigen is subcutaneously injected with fine needles. It is almost a painless procedure. Any adverse reactions during the treatment will cause the doctor to discontinue treatment.
  • The injections have a frequency of once or twice a week to begin with for the first six months. After that a booster dose of one injection a month is administered. The desensitization process generally takes six months but the entire treatment requires 3-5 years to be effective.
  • It is extremely important to be patient throughout the treatment. Discontinuing it midway can do more harm than good. Persistently pursuing the therapy may eliminate the hypersensitivity for life.

Side Effects of Immunotherpy

  • The site of the injection may become red and swollen coupled with an itching sensation.
  • Skin reactions as in hives (red itchy bumps with predefined borders ) may also surface.
  • Anaphylaxis may occur in response to the antigen being introduced in the body. It is characterized by a state of extreme shortness of breath, loss of consciousness, confusion, shock and requires emergency medical attention.

Benefits of Allergy Shots

  • It offers a permanent solution to the allergy problem.
  • It treats the underlying cause of the problem and not just the symptoms.
  • It is extremely affordable and cost effective.
  • It gives relief from the other associated symptoms of allergy like asthma and allergic rhinitis.
  • It can improve the quality of life immensely for allergy sufferers.
  • It can reduce symptoms and make them less intense and severe. Or it can eliminate the hypersensitivity all together.
  • Studies show that if immunotherpy is introduced in children soon after they show first sign of allergies, it may decrease the chances of the child developing any more allergies or asthma later on.