Immunotherapy or allergy shots are the only way to reduce or eliminate a patient’s allergies. Medications only treat the symptoms of the problem, they do not make you less allergic. The allergy shot contains what a person is allergy to. Allergy shots are considered to be a vaccination – by giving a patient injections of what they are allergic to they become increasingly less sensitive to these substances.
Allergy shots can be given to all age groups though careful consideration must be given for children less than 5 years of age. Since allergy shots will reduce how allergic you are good candidates are those who find their medications aren’t working as well as they would like, those who do not want to keep taking medications or those who have undesirable side effects from their medications.
Allergy shots are given in 2 phases – a buildup phase and a maintenance phase. During the buildup phase a patient will be given increasing amounts of what they are allergic to in their shots. This is done on a weekly basis. During the maintenance phase a fixed amount of allergen is given every 2 to 4 weeks. In the past the buildup phase would take 4 to 6 months or more of weekly injections to reach the maintenance phase but now with the use of accelerated schedules (Cluster or Rush), maintenance can now be reached within a month! It is important to reach the maintenance phase as this is where patients will be getting most of their relief from the shots though some patients will notice improvement in their symptoms during the buildup phase. Once on maintenance, it is recommended to get allergy injections for 3-5 years before stopping. The reason injections are given for this period of time is to reduce the chance that after stopping shots that symptoms do not return like they were before the shots were started.
Recently a sublingual form of immunotherapy was introduced. These are treatments given under the tongue and are able to reduce how allergic a patient is just like the allergy injections. Currently there are only 2 approved treatments, one for grass and the other for ragweed. The main advantage of this treatment is that it can be given at home. One significant disadvantage is that there is no available treatment if you are allergic to trees, mold, dust mite, animals or insects. Additionally it does not appear to induce long lasting remission like the allergy shots can nor does it appear to be as effective.
If you have questions about allergy shots or would like to make an appointment to be seen by Dr. Kocur, please call the office at 314-569-2015.