A few shots away: Immunotherapy may relieve allergy symptoms
MILWAUKEE – Those who suffer from allergic asthma, rhinitis, conjunctivitis or stinging insect allergies may be good candidates to receive immunotherapy, also known as “allergy shots,” according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).
“Immunotherapy is a form of treatment that aims to decrease sensitivity to substances called allergens,” said Linda Cox, MD, FAAAAI, Chair of the AAAAI’s Immunotherapy and Allergy Diagnostics Committee. “Allergens, like pollen, mold or animal dander, are substances that trigger allergy symptoms when an allergic person is exposed to them. Patients who receive immunotherapy are injected with increasing amounts of an allergen until the target therapeutic dose is reached, in an effort to build resistance to specific allergens.”
Immunotherapy has proven to prevent the development of new allergies, and it may prevent the progression of allergic disease from allergic rhinitis to asthma. Immunotherapy can also lead to long-lasting relief of allergy symptoms after treatment is stopped.
How does immunotherapy work?
There are generally two phases to immunotherapy:
Build-up phase: This involves receiving injections with increasing amounts of the allergens about one to two times per week. The length of this phase depends upon how often the injections are received, but generally ranges from three to six months on a conventional build-up schedule. The target dose may be reached in a much shorter period of time (one day to several weeks) with rapid build-up schedules, referred to as “cluster and rush.” These rapid schedules involve giving two or more injections each visit, which will decrease the number of visits during the build-up phase. However, these schedules may also carry a greater risk of patients experiencing an adverse reaction to the immunotherapy.
When is immunotherapy helpful?
Immunotherapy should only be prescribed by physicians with specialty training in allergy/immunology and should be administered in a facility equipped with proper staff and equipment to identify and treat adverse reactions to allergy injections. Ideally, immunotherapy should be given in the prescribing allergist/immunologist’s office, but if this is not possible, your allergist/immunologist should provide the supervising physician with comprehensive instructions about your immunotherapy treatment.
When to see an allergist/immunologist
Have a clear relationship between asthma, rhinitis, conjunctivitis and exposure to an allergen
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