In some cases allergy medications can fail to adequately control a certain allergy symptom, it may also be not possible to simply avoid a allergy trigger. During such situations, an allergist may recommend immunotherapy or ‘allergy shots’.
With a course of ‘allergy shots’ the patient will have fewer allergy symptoms and many cases, the allergy gets completely cured. Allergy shots are preferred to treat allergic rhino-conjunctivitis of the nose and eyes, allergic asthma and some insect sting allergies.
Difference from allergy medicines
Allergy medicines act only to cover-up allergic symptoms and prevent them only temporarily, on the other hand allergy shots treat the underlying allergy problem and even completely eliminate the symptoms. This is possible because on administering allergy shots, the body treats them like a vaccine and results in the production of infection fighting antibodies against the triggers like pollen, dust, mold or pet dander. The effects can last for years even after stopping the allergy shots and prevents forming of new allergies.
The method and dosage
Immunotherapy starts off with a small dose that will not cause any allergic reaction and gradually advanced to increase in dosage until the person is tolerant to the allergen. The injections are given once or twice a week and the treatment lasts anywhere from three to six months.
The risks involved
The risk involves an allergic reaction to the allergy shot leading to mild or moderate swelling and itching at the site of the shot. A large swelling may require adjustment in dosage.
Less common reactions include chest tightness, cough, wheezing, throat tightness, shock and rarely some are life threatening. It is thus advisable to remain in the physician’s office for around 30 minutes after each shot. Any reaction can easily be resolved with medicines such as injectable epinephrine and antihistamines.
Opting for allergy shots
Any immunotherapy course should be decided by your doctor with your approval. But there are several reasons to consider such a therapy.
Medicines not working: When numerous allergy medications do not help control your allergy or it keep recurring even after a course of treatment.
Looking for total cure: Only immunotherapy treatment for allergies fixes the underlying problem of the immune system, much like a vaccine and give long time succour from the allergy.
Dislike for pills and lotions: Many a times patients dislike having to take medications on a daily basis and the idea of a shot once in a month is preferred.
Medications are expensive: Medications are expensive and since many allergy return more often the cost can be exorbitant hence allergy shots are chosen for total cure and cost savings.