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What Are The Side Effects Of Allergy Shots

Side Effects Of Allergy Medications

Immunotherapy and the side effects

Q1. How do allergies affect mood? It seems when I’m experiencing my hay fever and I take Actifed or Sudafed and the symptoms go away, I become short-tempered on the meds. Can you tell me what causes this?

Andrea, California

Both untreated allergic conditions and allergy medications can cause mood changes. When people have severe nasal allergies, they often complain of feeling irritable and utterly exhausted. Others describe a nervous agitation. People who have chronic hives may also report similar fluctuations in mood that correspond to outbreaks. People who have had anaphylactic reactions often describe a strong sense of impending doom during the early stages of the reaction. Allergy cells produce a potent mix of natural chemicals that are released either gradually or in a large burst during various allergic conditions. Some of these, including histamine and one called TNF-alpha, are known to have mood-altering effects. We have receptors for these chemicals throughout our bodies, including in our brains.

On the other hand, allergy medications can also affect mood in some people. Medications like Sudafed cause some people to feel anxious and jittery, and others to feel lethargic. Many antihistamines cause drowsiness.

Q2. How can I find an allergy medication that doesn’t make me sleepy? Why do they all seem to have this side effect?

Vivi, Greece

Learn more in the Everyday Health Allergy Center.

How Do Allergy Shots Work

Allergy shots work by decreasing symptoms from particular allergens.

Each injection contains small amounts of the allergen so that your body builds up immunity to it over time. The process works much like taking a vaccine, where your body creates new antibodies to combat the invasive substances.

Allergy shots also improve the way other immune system cells and substances function in response to allergens. Eventually, successful immunotherapy helps the body fight off allergens and reduce adverse symptoms.

Allergy shots aim to decrease overall allergy symptoms over time. If you have allergic asthma, reduced asthma symptoms are also possible.

How Long Do I Take Allergy Shots

A course of allergy shots often lasts 3-6 years. Allergy shots begin with a very low dose, then are built up gradually on a regular basis until a therapeutic or maintenance dose is achieved. The highest tolerated maintenance doses are given every 3 weeks. It is important to maintain allergy shots at the proper time interval. Missing allergy shots for a short vacation or for some other acute medical problem is acceptable.

You will be re-evaluated occasionally with skin testing while on allergy shots and subsequent changes in the extract or schedule may be necessary to obtain the best results. We will usually consider discontinuing injections when you have minimum symptoms and have a normal or near-normal exam for at least one year.

Most patients will continue to do well after stopping allergy shots, and some will have a slight increase in symptoms controllable with medications. A small number of patients, however, will require resumption of allergy injections. Other guidelines are used for stopping shots when used for asthma and insect sting reaction.

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Allergy Shot Side Effects Are Usually Mild

The side effects of allergy shots are usually mild, but as concentrations and doses increase, so can the risk of local or systemic reactions. Local reactions are usually mild in nature and can include redness, itching and/or swelling at the injection site. Systemic reactions can affect the entire body and involve symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing or hives.

Anaphylaxis is a severe and potentially life threatening systemic allergic reaction marked by swelling in the throat, chest tightness, wheezing, nausea and dizziness. It can be similar to the serious reactions some people have to peanuts or bee stings. Anaphylaxis requires immediate medical treatment and could require the use of epinephrine, also known adrenaline, to reverse the reaction.

Benefits Of Allergy Shots

Allergy shots (immunotherapy): Efficacy, side effects, and ...

Allergy shots can be effective at reducing allergy symptoms especially for seasonal allergies and allergies to dogs and cats.;

For example, a 2016 study published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology examined two groups of 65 to 75-year-olds with hay fever triggered by pollen and grass allergies. One group was given allergy shots, while the other received a placebo over the course of three years.;

The allergy shot group reported a 55 percent reduction in symptoms of hay fever, like sneezing and itchy eyes, and a reduction of 64 percent in the amount of allergy medication needed for relief.

It can take about six months to a year of allergy shots for someone to notice a change in allergy symptoms, and about two to three years for the treatment to reach its full effect.;

“For some people, it offers significant improvement, and for others, it provides partial improvement or at least lets them decrease their medications and feel more comfortable in general,” says Omid Mehdizadeh, MD, otolaryngologist and laryngologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center.;

Overall, immunotherapy treatment typically spans three to five years, though some people may receive allergy shots for shorter or longer periods of time, depending on how well they respond to the treatment.

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How Often Are Allergy Shots Given

Allergy shots are given regularly , with gradually increasing doses. When starting immunotherapy, you will need to go to your healthcare provider once or twice a week for several months. The dose is increased each time until the maintenance dose is reached. If the shots are effective, you will go to your healthcare provider every 2 to 4 weeks for 2 to 5 more years. You may become less sensitive to allergens during this time, and your allergy symptoms will become milder and may even go away completely.

What Does The Allergist Do

Before starting immunotherapy, the allergist will take a complete medical history.

  • Be sure to tell him or her about every medication you take, prescription and nonprescription, even those you take only occasionally.
  • Report any vitamins, dietary supplements, herbal products, and other alternative therapies you take.
  • Also report every allergy you know of.
  • If you are a woman, it is essential that you tell your allergist if you are pregnant or have any plans to become pregnant in the foreseeable future. In this case, allergy shots might be better suited for another time. Based on your particular situation, the allergist will tell you your options for treatment of your allergies during pregnancy. In certain situations, allergy shots can be continued during pregnancy, if it is determined that the potential benefits outweigh the risk of an unlikely, but potentially severe, reaction to one of the shots.
  • At first you will get the shots often, once or twice a week.
  • After about 6-12 months, you will start maintenance therapy, which means a shot about every month or so.
  • Most people continue to take maintenance therapy for 3-5 years.
  • Death

Read Also: How To Read Allergy Skin Test Results

What Age Should Allergy Shots Begin

As with allergy testing, there is really no such thing as being too young to get allergy shots. That said, a child must be old enough to be able to communicate with a parent or medical personnel if he is experiencing symptoms of an allergic reaction to an allergy shot. The child must also be old enough to cooperate with the allergy shot itself, and this will be different for each child.;If going to the allergy clinic is so traumatic to the child that he or she cries and screams at every visit, it’s likely that his parent will eventually stop taking him for allergy shots, and the therapy wont be successful.

Most experts on allergy shots feel that the age at which most children can tolerate allergy shots is five years old. Except in certain circumstances, for example, when a child is very mature or when allergy shots are desperately needed, waiting until a child is at least six years old is often best. Of course, this can vary, some children may not be mature enough for allergy shots until age eight, or ten, or even twelve. Mentioning this does not mean that a 10-year-old who is not yet mature enough to handle allergy shots is “behind” or that your parenting techniques leave something to be desired. As with most childhood milestones, children mature at different ages and in different ways. A child who is not mature enough at 10 for allergy shots may be more mature in other ways than a child who is mature enough for allergy shots at age six.

Are There Any Side Effects Of Steroid Shots That I Should Know About

What are the side effects of immunotherapy?

There is a risk of having an adverse reaction to a steroid shot, and Dr. Wada says she typically doesn’t use steroid shots in her practice. “Although they can be incredibly helpful when someone is very sick, they have significant potential for harm especially if used regularly,” she says. “These side effects include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, weight gain, mood swings, loss of bone and eye disease.”

Dr. Lee also says that she doesn’t usually recommend steroid shots because absorption is unpredictable, and there is an inability to adjust the dosage if side effects do occur.

Over-the-counter preventative medications should always be your first move, says Dr. Parikh.

If you do have a need for this treatment, Dr. Wada suggests scheduling an appointment with a board certified allergist-immunologist to develop an individualized treatment plan with both safety and efficacy in mind.

There is still a risk of side effects when using steroid-free immunotherapy shots, but reactions are typically a lot more minor. “We commonly see minor reactions such as redness, itching and swelling at the injection site,” Dr. Lee says about steroid-free allergy shots. “Though in rare cases, more serious reactions can occur, including difficulty breathing, itchy rashes and anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction.”

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Worsening Of Allergy Symptoms For 2 Days After Shot

After my shots I almost always experience a slight worsening in allergy symptoms for 2 days after the shot.

In my opinion this should be expected, right? Youre being injected with allergens and your body is reacting. For 2 days after the shot I usually take an extra anti-histamine.

My eczema always gets a little red and improves a few days after shots.

How Do Allergy Shots Help

Allergy shots help the body build immunity to specific allergens, so it’s not as bothered by them. Allergy shots also can help kids who have allergies andasthma have fewer asthma flare-ups.

Allergy shots contain a tiny amount of a purified form of the allergen causing problems. Doctors increase the dose slowly over the first 36 months. This lets the immune system safely adjust and build immunity to the allergens. This is called the buildup phase.

The highest effective safe dose becomes a child’s monthly maintenance dose. Health care providers give this to the child for about 3 to 5 years. Most kids will need fewer shots over time.

Some kids’ allergy symptoms ease during the buildup phase. Others don’t feel better until they’re into the maintenance phase. After years of getting allergy shots, some may have lasting relief from symptoms.

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They Can Take A Few Years To Really Work

Allergy shots aren’t a quick fix: While some people may start to feel better during the build-up phase of their treatment, most people won’t experience noticeable improvement until they’ve been in the maintenance phase for six to 18 months, says Dr. Dziadzio.

In fact, a 2017 British study found that it took three full years for allergy shots for hay fever to be more effective than placebo shots. The maintenance phase for most allergy shots is usually continued for three to five years. Some patients experience long-lasting relief after that, and some may need continued treatment.

They’re A Big Time Commitment

Allergy shots (immunotherapy): Efficacy, side effects, and ...

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.

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How Do You Prepare For An Allergy Shot

Before you start allergy shots, youll need a full evaluation. The doctor needs to test your allergies to know exactly which substances to use in the shots.

For example, if you have allergies during pollen season, theyll test for which types of pollen cause your symptoms. Ragweed, grasses, and various tree pollens are common culprits.

Allergy testing usually consists of skin pricking. During a skin prick test, your doctor will prick the skin on your back or forearm with several types of allergens to determine which ones cause reactions.

A type of specialist known as an allergist or an immunologist will conduct all testing and treatment with allergy shots.

Once your doctor has identified your allergens, youll start receiving allergy shots. The process is broken down into two phases:

  • buildup
  • maintenance

What Can Affect How Well They Work

The effectiveness of the treatment does vary. Often this is to do with the length of the program a person is undertaking or the dose of the allergen.

Some people will have lasting relief while others may have a relapse after treatment has stopped. If a person experiences no improvement after 12 months of allergy shots, it could be due to several factors:

  • wrong dose of the allergen in the allergy shot
  • missed allergens in the individual when they are first evaluated
  • high levels of the allergen in the environment the person is in
  • exposure to non-allergic triggers, such as tobacco smoke

If allergy shots are not working, for whatever reason, then an allergist or immunologist will be able to discuss alternative treatment options.

Normally, the only side effect that people experience after having an allergy shot is redness or swelling at the site of the injection. This can happen immediately after the injection or a few hours afterward.

In some cases, people can experience increased allergy symptoms, such as:

  • sneezing
  • nausea
  • dizziness

Anaphylactic shock needs to be treated immediately with an injection of epinephrine, which is also called adrenaline.

A second anaphylactic reaction called a biphasic reaction can occur up to 12 hours after the initial shock.

Allergy shots have traditionally been the most common form of immunotherapy and are known as subcutaneous immunotherapy or SCIT.

This treatment is when an allergen is injected under the skin.

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Youll Have To Stick To A Schedule

For treatment to be most effective, youll need to create an allergy shot plan that involves multiple doses over a period of time.

Exactly how many doses youll need and for how long will depend on your individual situation. Dr. Reichmuth, one of the expert immunologists at Florida Medical Clinic, says your doctor will work with you to create a schedule best suited for your symptoms.

Schedules are split into two phases: the build-up phase and the maintenance phase.

During the buildup phase, allergy injections are given more frequently, typically 1-2 times a week for 4-8 months. During maintenance phase, the injections become less frequent according to the plan you create with your immunologist.

What Is Immunotherapy

What Are the Side Effects of Immunotherapy?

Allergen immunotherapy is a form of treatment aimed at decreasing your sensitivity to substances called allergens. These allergens are identified by allergy testing, and are the substances that trigger your allergy symptoms when you are exposed to them. Allergen immunotherapy involves injecting increasing amounts of an allergen to a patient over several months. Immunotherapy has been shown to prevent the development of new allergies and, in children, it can prevent the progression of the allergic disease from allergic rhinitis to asthma. Allergen immunotherapy can lead to the long-lasting relief of allergy symptoms after treatment is stopped.

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What It’s Used For

Common allergic symptoms are sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes or asthma attacks. Allergy symptoms are caused by your body’s reaction to a substance that is inhaled, touched or eaten. Allergens cause no symptoms in a non-allergic person, but in an allergic person who is sensitized to that antigen, an immune reaction against the allergen causes symptoms.;

In allergic reactions, the body responds to the allergen in the same way it would respond to fight off infection by a parasite. The immune system recognizes the substance as foreign and activates an army of antibodies to eliminate the invader. The antibodies bind with the allergen and then trigger immune system cells to release chemicals, such as histamine. This release of histamine is what causes most allergy symptoms.

Allergy shots, also known as allergen immunotherapy, cause the body to stop generating symptoms after exposure to certain allergens. Tiny amounts of the offending substance are injected under the skin with each shot. The shots stimulate the immune system just a little each time. Gradually, over weeks and months, the amount of allergen is increased.;

This very constant, low-level exposure stimulates a different type of immune reaction against the allergen. This new pattern of immune reaction substitutes for and is less bothersome than a traditional allergic response.;

Avoidance of foods to which you are allergic currently the best strategy for preventing food allergy reactions.;


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