Is Environmental Allergy Immunotherapy Right For You
Talk with a board-certified allergist about how your allergy symptoms affect your activities and health, then consider whether immunotherapy might help more than allergen avoidance and/or medications.
Use the following questions to help guide you with your decision:
- Have reliable allergy tests identified that you are allergic to an allergen that can be successfully treated with immunotherapy?
- Is the allergen one that is difficult to avoid exposure to in everyday life?
- Do your symptoms consistently interfere with daily activities?
- Have your symptoms been difficult to control with allergy medications?
- Do you have related conditions such as eczema, sinusitis or asthma that complicate your allergies?
- Are you able to commit to the immunotherapy schedule?
Use with your allergist to determine if environmental allergen immunotherapy is right for you. Shared Decision Making encourages patients to take a more active role in their care. You work closely with doctors to select tests and treatments together. Its evidence-based and balances risks and results with a patients preferences and values.
What If I Have More Questions
If youre still wondering, Are allergy shots worth it?, the immunologists at Florida Medical Clinic are here to help. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Daniel Reichmuth in Land OLakes, Wesley Chapel or Zephyrhills, FL, please .
Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to substitute professional medical advice. Always talk with your doctor before starting or stopping medications.
Disadvantages Of Allergy Immunotherapy
As with all types of medical procedures and treatments, allergy desensitization has some drawbacks. Following are some of the more common disadvantages of allergy shots:
- Immunotherapy does not work on every type of allergy. It is true that shots work well for common allergies such as pet dander, pollen, dust, and other pollutants found in the home. Shots are ineffective for treating food allergies and urticaria. Urticaria causes chronic hives related to an underlying disease such as hyperthyroidism or lupus. In addition, insect venom allergies such as bee stings or spider bites cannot be prevented by allergy shots.
- Some patients have a reaction that shows up as redness, swelling, and tenderness at the injection site. However, injection site reactions usually last just one day.
- Occasionally, certain patients balk at the time commitment needed for successful allergy prevention. Missing appointments can delay or derail relief from allergies.
- Allergy shots can worsen allergy symptoms at first when the injection regimen starts.
- Since allergy shots rarely cause anaphylaxis, patients must wait in their physicians office for 30 minutes until the danger of anaphylaxis passes.
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How Successful Is Allergen Immunotherapy
Allergen immunotherapy has been in use for more than 100 years. Sublingual immunotherapy is a newer treatment that has become much more effective over the past 10 years.
Research shows allergen immunotherapy can reduce the chance of someone having a severe reaction to stinging insects from about 6 in 10 to less than 1 in 10.
Almost everyone with allergic rhinitis will have a significant improvement in their symptoms and enjoy a better quality of life after allergen immunotherapy.
Allergen immunotherapy has also been shown to have lasting benefits for asthma as long as you know which allergen is responsible for your asthma symptoms. It can also prevent children with allergic rhinitis from developing asthma.
What Happens If I Stop Getting The Shots Is It Safe To Stop In The Middle Of Treatment
Yes, its safe to stop in the middle of treatment. However, if you choose to stop before your doctors recommendation, your symptoms may come back.
Immunotherapy works slowly over time, so its important to be patient even if you feel like youre not seeing improvements. Talk with your doctor if youre not finding relief from your symptoms and want to stop.
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Antihistamines Can Make Allergy Shots Easier
Taking an oral antihistamine before each shot can help reduce side effects and reactions. “We really encourage patients to take them beforehand, especially as they get closer to their maintenance dose and their local reactions can get pretty bad,” says Dr. Dziadzio.
And if that’s not enough reason to pop a pill beforehand, some research even suggests that pre-treatment with an antihistamine during the build-up phase of allergy shots can improve the shots’ effectiveness too.
Treatment At Our Office Vs At Home
While you may have heard that allergy shots can be administered at home, we dont recommend that course of treatment. This type of immunotherapy should be administered in our properly-equipped office by expert staff, who can supervise the treatment and ensure its safety. By administering shots at home, you risk having an adverse reaction that cant be immediately treated. The immunotherapy treatments are quick and simple once your dosing is determined, and you can continue with your day immediately afterward.
Sublingual immunotherapy can be administered at home, which is why many of our patients choose this form over injections. Even though they are slightly less effective, you wont be required to come into our office once or twice a week if you take the tablets, as you will be for injections. This convenience often outweighs the minor decrease in efficacy for the tablets, but if you dont get the results you want, shots may be the better option.
Although the typical build-up phase for immunotherapy requires shots once or twice a week, we can alter your schedule to meet your needs. If youre looking to achieve results more quickly, we can increase the frequency of your injections. If you need more time between visits, we can decrease the number of appointments, which will delay the maintenance phase but may be more appealing to you in terms of how often you need to come into our office for treatment.
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How Is Allergen Immunotherapy Administered
An allergist or immunologist schedules the immunotherapy treatment for an allergy patient. Before starting immunotherapy, the immunologist typically takes the following steps:
- Records a complete history of the patients allergic symptoms.
- Checks existing medical conditions and medications.
- Performs a skin prick test that places a small amount of an antigen in the skin to find substances to which the patient is allergic.
- Prepares a diluted solution of specific antigens that cause the patients allergic symptoms.
Subcutaneous immunotherapy is performed in two phases:
- Buildup phase: Once- or twice-weekly injections for six months to a year, starting with a low dose, gradually increasing until the patient is able to tolerate the maintenance dose. The maintenance dose is calibrated to roughly equal the levels of allergens present in the patients environment.
- Rush immunotherapy: The buildup phase may be speeded up by a higher dose increase every week for patients who can tolerate it. Though it reduces time required to reach maintenance dose, it also increases the risks of a severe allergic reaction.
- Maintenance phase: The maintenance dose of injections are usually given once every two or three weeks for three to five years, depending on the patients response to the therapy.
- The patient remains under observation for about 30 minutes after each allergy shot to check for any severe allergic reactions.
They Can Make Asthma And Eczema Better
When people think of allergy symptoms, they generally think of itchy eyes and a stuffy or runny nose, or, in worse-case scenarios, anaphylactic shock. And while allergy shots can help prevent all of those, they can also help with related conditions, as well.
If you have asthma, getting your allergies under control may also help reduce flare-ups, improve your breathing, and reduce your need for medications. Eczema, an inflammatory skin condition, is often associated with environmental allergies.
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What Kind Of Allergy Shots Do I Need
The kind of shot you get depends on what youre allergic to. Before starting treatment, youll be tested to identify exactly what substances trigger your symptoms and determine what goes into your treatment.
For example, if you experience a lot of symptoms in the spring, you may have a pollen allergy. Youll be tested to determine exactly what type of pollen your immune system is reacting to. Your immunologist will then formulate allergy shots that are made just for you.
Learn More About Allergy Shots From Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center
For more information about allergy treatment and prevention contact any of the 11 Charlotte, NC offices of the Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center. The offices are staffed allergists that are board certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. Get in touch with us today to schedule your appointment.
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How Much Do Allergy Shots Cost
Health insurance typically covers allergy shots. You may have to pay a copay for each visit. Copays are usually nominal fees.
If you dont have health insurance, have a high deductible, or if allergy shots arent covered under your plan, you may end up spending thousands of dollars a year.
- The cost of allergy shots for 131,493 people totaled $253,301,575. This averages out to around $1,926 per person.
- People with allergies covered about 19 percent of the total costs, while insurers covered about 81 percent.
- On average, treatment lasted 463.1 days .
Before beginning any treatment, talk with your doctor about payment options and costs.
Keep in mind that allergy shots are a long-term commitment. They require many injections, so youll want to plan accordingly if youre paying out of pocket.
Also consider that, over time, allergy shots could save you money on sick visits and over-the-counter allergy medications.
They’re Not Just For Seasonal Allergies
Allergy shots can be effective for people with hay fever and other seasonal allergies, but they can also work for year-round indoor allergieslike mold, dust mites, and animal danderand allergies to insect bites or stings.
“In the case of stinging insects, the shots can be close to curative,” says Dr. Dziadzio. “That’s the one time I really push people to get the shots no matter what, because it’s such a dangerous allergy.” Allergy shots may also be a good choice for people who don’t like taking medications or can’t avoid the thing they’re allergic tolike a pet or the great outdoors.
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Does Immunotherapy Benefit All Patients
Immunotherapy benefits some, but not all, cancer patients. It seems to work better for certain cancers for example, cancers with higher levels of PD-L1 protein or a massive number of gene mutations due to DNA repair defects. However, there are many exceptions, and we do not fully understand how best to select patients who will benefit.
They Can Improve Mental Health Too
It’s not just physical symptoms that can get better with allergy shots mental state can improve, as wellespecially if severe allergies have really taken a toll on your health and happiness.
This may be especially true for insect allergies, a condition that can cause serious distress and affect a person’s ability to enjoy the outdoors. One 2014 study found that patients with insect-venom allergies who received immunotherapy not only had a lower risk of anaphylaxis and death than those who didn’t, but also had lower anxiety and depression scores.
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How Does Immunotherapy Work
This treatment is also known as desensitization. It aims to do exactly that: make the immune system less sensitive to the allergen by allowing it to “get used to” it. An is an exaggerated reaction to a substance that is actually harmless. The body produces antibodies to protect itself against what it wrongly believes to be harmful allergens. These antibodies are part of a chain reaction that leads to allergy symptoms.
In immunotherapy, the body is exposed to extracts of the allergen with the aim of training it to react differently: Its a bit like being vaccinated against your own . The allergen extracts can be injected or taken as tablets or drops.
What Kind Of Shots Are Given For Allergies
To treat allergic symptoms, many people get allergy shots. These are regular injections administered over time that help reduce symptoms and attacks. Tiny doses of a specific allergen are injected in the body to build up the bodys response to that allergen. Allergy shots are a type of immunotherapy treatment given to help individuals with seasonal allergies, stinging insect allergies, & indoor allergens
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Allergy Drops Cover These Allergies
Treatment with allergy drops has only been approved by the FDA for four allergens. They are:
comprehensive review of published studies revealed there is a lot of good evidence that allergy drops are safe and effective for treating allergic rhinitis. SCIT was also safe and effective, but there wasnt enough evidence to determine if allergy drops are more effective than SCIT.
Conditions For Which Immunotherapy Is Unhelpful
It is unusual for patients to receive immunotherapy for more than two allergies. Where a patient has severe symptoms caused by a number of different allergens they may be given immunotherapy for one or two of these so that symptoms are reduced to the level where they can be managed by the usual drug treatments.
Rashes such as eczema and nettle rash cannot be treated with immunotherapy. Research is ongoing into whether certain forms of immunotherapy might be helpful in severe atopic eczema.
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They’re A Big Time Commitment
Allergy shots are given in two phases. In the “build-up” phase, you’ll need a shot once or twice a week for about three to six months. After that, you’ll enter the “maintenance” phase and receive them less oftenabout once or twice a month, for several years.
Sticking to this schedule is important, for the shots’ effectiveness and to reduce your chances of having a bad reaction. “For some people it’s absolutely worth it, but some people just don’t have that time to spare,” says Dr. Dziadzio. And while the shots themselves only take a minute, you probably will have to wait those 30 minutes in your doctor’s office after each one.
How Often How Long And Symptom Relief
Most allergy drops are taken every three to seven days for three years. Youll usually have no or only minimal allergy symptoms the fourth year. Some people continue without symptoms indefinitely, but most have to start another course of allergy drops after two or three years because symptoms return.
If you have seasonal allergies , youll start using the allergy drops three to four months before allergy season starts and continue taking them until it ends. If youre allergic to something thats around all the time, like I dust mites, youll take them throughout the year.
Your allergy symptoms should begin to improve within a few months of starting allergy drops but getting the full benefit may take a year or more.
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How Are Slit Tablets Administered At Home
When taking a SLIT tablet at home, you place the tablet under the tongue. Then you old it there without swallowing for at least a minute. After taking the tablet, you cant eat or drink anything for at least five minutes.
The tablet is highly allergenic, so its important to wash your hands after taking it. If you rub your eyes immediately after handling the tablet, you could risk an allergic reaction.
You need to be diligent about taking it on a daily basis. If you happen to miss too many days in a row, you need to contact your doctor. It can be dangerous to restart immunotherapy on your own.
If youre a parent giving your child a SLIT tablet at home, make sure you watch the child for 30 minutes after giving the tablet. Keep epinephrine auto-injectors close by in case of a severe allergic reaction.
What Are Allergy Shots
Allergy shots are also known as subcutaneous immunotherapy or SCIT. They are the most familiar form of immunotherapy used for environmental allergens. Often several different allergens can be combined in one injection. This helps to build tolerance to multiple allergens at once.
Shots are administered in a board-certified allergists office once or twice weekly. That schedule will continue for about 6-12 months. Your allergist increases the level of allergen extract in your injections until the maintenance dose is reached.
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Allergic Reactions Less Severe Or Gone For Years
A review of published studies showed that symptom relief continued for two to three years after allergy drop treatment was stopped after being taken for three years.
A lot of research has been done using allergy drops to treat a variety of allergens, but more is needed to determine its overall safety and effectiveness.
Understanding The Mechanism Of Allergen Immunotherapy
Over 50 million of people suffer from allergies a year in the United States. Many control their symptoms with over-the-counter medications and avoidance measures. A subset of allergy sufferers, approximately 3 million, has found relief with allergen immunotherapy.
Similar to the concept of vaccinations, allergen immunotherapy causes changes in the immune response such that future encounters with the allergen incite mild to no allergy symptoms. The concept of treating hay fever allergies with injections of increasing amounts of ragweed allergen was first documented by Noon in 1911.1 This model has served as the basis of modern day subcutaneous immunotherapy. Since then, a significant amount of information including the specific changes in the immune response to the allergen and immunotherapy has been learned.
Our own study is consistent with this key role of IL-10 in differentiating between an allergic versus healthy response to an allergen challenge. Comparing the response of peripheral blood mononuclear cells from allergic fungal rhinosinusitis versus healthy control individuals to fungal antigens, only healthy non-allergic individuals responded to the fungal antigen challenges with increases in IL-10 secretion. Additional studies in the AFRS patients will be necessary to determine if increasing IL-10 and T reg cells represents a desired target effect for any future treatment.
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