What is immunotherapy?
Do you sometimes feel like there will never be any relief from your allergy symptoms? The runny nose, itchy, watery eyes and wheezing will just never go away. But alas, there is relief in sight! A technique called “immunotherapy” or “allergy shots” can help you alleviate symptoms caused by allergies.
Although immunotherapy is not a cure, it is the next best thing. You can dramatically reduce your allergy symptoms by completing immunotherapy treatment.
How does it work?
Immunotherapy is an effective vaccination program that can increase your immunity to substances called allergens that trigger your symptoms. It works by gradually increasing the amounts of an allergen given to patient over the course of several months. The injections of the allergens will first be given on a weekly or bi-weekly basis and eventually on a monthly basis.
Through your body’s exposure to small, injected amounts of a particular allergen, in gradually increasing doses, your body builds up immunity to the allergens to which you are allergic. This results in reduced allergic symptoms when the patient comes into contact with the allergen. The concentration of this dosage will vary depending on the patient’s sensitivity. It is also important to see your immunotherapy treatment all the way through, as stopping will cause a loss of efficacy of the program.
Benefits of immunotherapy
For those people who have allergy symptoms that are moderate to severe, occur throughout most of the year, who do not respond adequately to the medications and cannot easily avoid their triggers, immunotherapy will cause significant relief. Before immunotherapy, a patient could have extreme allergic reactions when exposed to a known trigger, such as ragweed, pollen or animal dander. But immunotherapy can minimize the symptoms during exposure, and lead to a more care-free life.
However, there are some down-sides to immunotherapy. First of all, the initial treatment is very frequent, resulting in many trips to the allergist’s office. In addition to this, you will be required to stay in the office for 20 minutes after your injections. This is purely for your safety, as the physician would want you there in case of an adverse reaction to the shot. Some patients also develop swelling at the site of the injection. These “local reactions” can be resolved with oral antihistamines, ice packs or an adjustment of the dose given.
The positive side of immunotherapy outweighs the negative side in most cases. For some individuals, allergy shots can provide relief and a way of life that would never have been possible previously.
If you believe immunotherapy could help you, you should be examined by an allergist/immunologist. After taking a detailed history and examining you, your doctor will assess your allergy triggers