Allergy Immunotherapy

What is Allergy Immunotherapy (allergy shots)?

Allergy extracts are mixtures containing small amounts of those allergens to which you are sensitive to, such as pollens, dust mites and molds. Immunotherapy increases your resistance and lowers yours sensitivity to those allergens that bother you so when you inhale those substances, your symptoms will be less severe.


Allergy immunotherapy is used in patients who have severe symptoms which cannot be relieved by taking medications or avoiding the allergen. They have been used since 1911. Since that time, many studies have shown that the majority of people who take the shots as part of a quality program will get significantly better.


Are allergy shots given for everything I am allergic to?

If you have decided to take immunotherapy, then all airborne allergens that you are sensitive to will be used in treatment.


How often will I be receiving immunotherapy?

Generally, you should receive injections at least once a week during build up.  You may do injections twice a week if your schedule allows.  There are approximately 24 shots during build up.  Sometimes depending on reactions or time lapses you may need to repeat levels.  Once you reach your maintenance level you gradually increase the time between injections and the schedule becomes every 3 weeks.  Your doctor will help determine the schedule suitable for you.  It usually takes about 3 to 12 months of treatment before you will notice a significant improvement.  Over the next several years, they will continue to improve until eventually the shots are stopped after about 3 to 6 years.  A few people do not get better with the shots, even though the shots contain the right allergens and are given in the proper manner.  If this is the case after 12 to 18 months, the shots should be stopped.  This decision should be made by your doctor and you.


Once allergy shots are stopped, how long the benefits last varies from one person to another.  Some people remain without symptoms forever.  Others will have mild symptoms return, but will be able to control them with medications.  For a few patients, symptoms only return as severely as before treatment.  These patients respond to resuming the injections.  For these patients, re-testing may be required.


What happens if I miss a shot?

We encourage you to try to maintain the schedule we have set.  If you do miss an injection it will lengthen the time it will take for you to reach your maintenance level because doses must be repeated or reduced.


How much time do the injections take?

You should allow about 40 minutes for your shot.  This will give you 30 minutes to wait in the office, plus some time in case the office is crowded and you have to wait a few minutes before your shot.


Are allergy shots dangerous?

Generally speaking, although allergy shots are quite safe, they can sometimes cause reactions.  When receiving immunotherapy with allergenic extracts there is a small risk of a severe systemic reaction and very rare fatalities have been reported.  If a systemic reaction does occur, it usually does so within minutes of the injection.  Prompt treatment can be administered right in the physicians' office.  This is why we ask that you wait in the office for 30 minutes after the injection.


What kind of reactions might I get?

A local reaction at the injection site is common and is no cause for alarm.  This includes redness, swelling and itching, much like a mosquito bite, which lasts no longer than 24 hours.  If you notice any of these within the first twenty minutes, report at once to the nurse or doctor.  These symptoms can usually be relieved quickly.  If they occur at home, you may want to take an antihistamine and apply ice to the area.  If you ever have a lot of itching, pain or swelling larger than a quarter lasting longer than 24 hours, BE SURE TO REPORT IT TO THE NURSE  BEFORE NEXT INJECTION.  Your dose may need to be adjusted.  To minimize the possible reaction, you should avoid strenuous physical activity for 12 hours before and after receiving the injection.


SYSTEMIC REACTIONS:  This type of reaction is rare, but you must be aware of it in case it happens.  As long as you are getting shots made of something you are allergic to there is the chance you could have a systemic, or even life threatening reaction.  If something severe is going to happen, it will be right after taking your shot.  This is why it is so important for you to wait in the office for at least 30 minutes after each injection.  We are prepared for this type of emergency.  Signs of systemic reactions are: Generalized itching, hives, sneezing, runny nose, coughing, wheezing, abdominal cramps, dizziness, or faintness.  If you notice any of these, report to the doctor or nurse at once.  If they occur on the way home, take an antihistamine and return to the office at once.  If it is after office hours, go to the nearest emergency room.


Can I receive an injection if I am sick?

If you are asthmatic and wheezing hard or experiencing more difficulty breathing than you normally have, then you probably will not receive your injection.  (We ask you to please let us know if you are not feeling well when you come for your injection.)  Never take an allergy shot if you have a fever.  If you have had a flu shot, tetanus, or other immunization, you should wait at least 24 hours before taking your allergy shot.  You should avoid strenuous physical activity for several hours before and after receiving the injection.


Do I need an appointment to receive my injection?

You do not need a scheduled appointment for your injection.  However, if it is your first injection, you should call the office and let them know when you plan on coming in so that they may dilute your extracts.