Allergy Shots (Immunotherapy)
If medications fail to provide effective symptom control, then “allergy shots” may be suggested by your Allergist. Allergy shots are sometimes recommended in situations were exposure to the offending allergens is frequent and unavoidable such as for pet allergy in a veterinarian. Allergy shots are sometimes used if allergy medications are poorly tolerated due to their occasional side effects. Allergy shots are not usually offered to everyone with allergies because of the potential risk for allergic reactions to the shot itself. Allergy shots are made from the same allergen extracts that are used for skin testing. Allergy shots work by gradually turning off the allergic reaction over time.
Allergy shots, if administered by a trained professional, are very effective in controlling allergy symptoms and can sometimes result in a cure; in which allergic antibodies can no longer be detected by testing. This may require several years of injections and some persons require long-term continued treatment to maintain the effectiveness of their shots. Most allergists will treat allergies in this way for 3 to 5 years before trying to stop the shots. Because of the possible risk of allergic reactions to allergy shots, they are usually begun with very weak (dilute) extracts and the dose is slowly increased over time. This “build-up phase” is typically done by administering shots once or twice per week for several months in an effort to minimize the risk for allergic reactions. When the highest desired dose (selected by your doctor) is reached, shots may then be given long-term once every 2 to 4 weeks.
Sometimes allergy shots are administered more rapidly than usual during the build-up phase. This procedure is called RUSH and most RUSH treatments carry a higher risk for developing allergic reactions. RUSH should only be performed by a physician experienced with this variation of shot administration and is not recommended for everyone. If your allergy shots are not prepared by an allergy specialist, you should inquire about your doctors training and experience with this potentially dangerous but effective method of medical treatment. All persons who have had life-threatening allergic reactions to bee or fire ant stings should be considered for possibly treatment with allergy shots. Food allergies cannot be treated with allergy shots.