Are Allergy Shots an Option for You?

Do you suffer with seasonal allergies and over the counter medications have not helped? Allergy shots may be an option when all other treatment methods have failed.

Allergy test

Allergy shots, also known as immunotherapy, are injections given at regular intervals to allergy sufferers over three to five years to stop or reduce the symptoms associated with an allergy attack. Each shot contains a tiny amount of the allergens that trigger an attack; just enough to spark the immune system, but not enough to cause a reaction. Over time, doctors will increase the amount of allergens as your system builds up a tolerance to them and becomes desensitized to their effects.

Allergy shots should be considered if medications to treat your allergies are ineffective, if allergy medications poorly interact with other medications you are taking, if allergy medications cause bothersome side effects, or if you want to reduce the long-term use of allergy medications.

Allergy shots can be used to treat reactions to:

• Seasonal allergens, such as pollens released by trees, grass, and weeds
• Indoor allergens, such as dust mites, pet dander, and mold
• Insect strings from bees, wasps, hornets, or yellow jackets

Unfortunately, allergy shots cannot treat food allergies.

Before you can even consider receiving an allergy shot your doctor must perform a skin test to determine what you are allergic to. During a skin test, a small amount of multiple allergens are scratched into your skin and the area (usually the back) is observed for 15 minutes. Redness or swelling will occur on whatever substances you are allergic to.

Once identified, allergy shots are injected regularly during two different phases of treatment.

• The build-up phase –Typically shots are given one to three times a week over three to six months. During the buildup phase, the allergen dose is gradually increased with each shot.
• The maintenance – This phase generally continues for three to five years or longer with maintenance injections administered approximately once a month.

You will need to remain in the doctor’s office for 30 minutes after each shot, in case you have a reaction, which can include local redness or swelling, sneezing, or nasal congestion. In rare cases, allergy shots can result in low blood pressure or difficulty breathing.

Allergy symptoms won’t stop overnight. They usually improve during the first year of treatment, but the most noticeable improvement often happens during the second year. By the third year, most people are desensitized to the allergens contained in the shots — and no longer have significant allergic reactions to those substances. After a few years of successful treatment, some people don’t have significant allergy problems even after allergy shots are stopped. Other people need ongoing shots to keep symptoms under control.

Speak with your doctor to determine if allergy shots are an option for you. If you do not have a doctor, Jamaica Hospital has an allergy clinic. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 718-206-7001.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.