What is Immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy (“allergy shots”) is a proven, effective form of treatment that can dramatically reduce sensitivity to certain allergens. Like a vaccine, immunotherapy works by injecting increasing amounts of an allergen to a patient in order to develop an immunity or tolerance. Immunotherapy is not recommended for food allergies. It is recommended for individuals over the age of five who seek long-lasting relief from:
- Allergic asthma
- Allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and conjunctivitis
- Stinging insect allergy
In studies, allergen immunotherapy has been shown to prevent the development of new allergies, and in children with allergic rhinitis, it may prevent the development of asthma.
Considerations for Immunotherapy Treatment
- Length of allergy season and severity of symptoms
- Effectiveness of medications and environmental changes in controlling allergy symptoms
- Desire to avoid long-term medication use
- Potential future benefit for children in prevention of new allergies and asthma
- Time: immunotherapy will require a significant time commitment
Diagnosis & Treatment
After a detailed medical history and complete physical exam, your physician will perform allergy skin testing to identify your specific allergic triggers. Since immunotherapy is not for everyone, your physician will discuss your situation with you to develop an individualized treatment plan. If immunotherapy is recommended and you wish to achieve long-term relief from allergies, your physician will create an immunotherapy treatment plan for you. During the build-up phase, you will receive increasing amounts of allergens via shots once or twice a week. This phase typically lasts for 3 to 6 months. Next is the maintenance phase in which a constant maintenance dose is administered every 2 to 4 weeks until there is lasting remission.
The Advantage of Immunotherapy Treatment
The success of immunotherapy treatment not only depends on the quality of your physician and the patient’s adherence to the treatment plan, but also on the quality of the allergen shots.