Curious about Allergy Shots? Here are some common questions and answers about allergies and the shots that can help relieve them.
How do allergy shots work?
Allergy immunotherapy (allergy shots) gradually retrain your immune system by injecting small doses of an allergy-containing solution. Over time, your sensitivity to the allergen decreases until your immune system is successfully desensitized to the allergen.
What is the process for allergy shots?
There are 2 phases of allergy shots:
- Build up: This involves receiving injections with increasing amounts of the allergens 1 to 2 times per week. The length of this phase depends upon how often the injections are received, but generally ranges from 3 to 6 months.
- Maintenance: This begins once the effective dose is reached. The effective maintenance dose depends on your level of allergen sensitivity and your response to the build-up phase. During the maintenance phase, there will be longer periods of time between treatments, ranging from 2 to 4 weeks.
Who should administer allergy shots?
Allergy shots should be administered by a Board Certified allergist that is certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. The Baton Rouge Clinic’s Allergists are board certified by both the American Board of Allergy & Immunology and the American Board of Internal Medicine.
Do allergy shots work?
Allergy shots are over 90% effective when given properly. It has been proven in clinical studies to decrease allergy symptoms, medication use, prevent new allergies and asthma in children, and promote lasting-relief of allergy symptoms even after treatment is stopped. Research shows allergy shots are cost-effective and reduce overall health care expenses, including costs from prescription medicine use, office visits, hospitalizations, and missed work/school.
What are the potential side effects of allergy shots?
The side effects of allergy shots are usually minimal. Most commonly, patients will feel slight itching or swelling at the site of the injection. Other people may experience more severe allergy symptoms like sneezing, watery eyes, nasal congestion, and hives. While rare, a person can have a serious reaction, like anaphylaxis, typically within 30 minutes after the shot is given. Therefore, waiting at an allergy office is required after an allergy shot is given. It is important for trained allergy staff to monitor patients after their allergy shots to ensure no reaction occurs.
How long do I have to take shots?
The standard duration of treatment is 3-5 years to receive maximum benefit. Most patients can be stopped at that time, and have lasting remission of allergy symptoms, but others may relapse after stopping allergy shots. The duration of therapy can vary from person to person and some individuals may need to stay on allergy shots longer than the usual duration.
Can allergy shots treat food allergies?
Allergy shots may help some individuals with pollen-food syndrome, a condition where raw fruits, vegetables and some nuts cause itching of the mouth and tongue. These individuals often have severe pollen sensitivity and food-related symptoms may improve with treatment of underlying pollen allergy. However, it is not indicated specifically for food allergy and the best option for people with food allergies is to strictly avoid foods that cause symptoms.
How are specific allergens selected for allergy vaccines?
Allergy shots should be completely individualized based on clinical history, allergen exposure, and allergy test results. A unique treatment mixture is then created for every individual. Allergy vaccines should be prescribed by a board certified allergist with specific training in formulating allergy vaccines.
Are allergy shots effective for children?
Allergy shots are especially effective in children, because treatment has been proven to help prevent the development of new allergies and asthma. As many as 25% of children (with a history of allergies and reactions) may develop asthma as they get older if untreated. This observation is sometimes referred to as the “atopic march.” Allergy shots are normally given to children 5 years or older, but may occasionally be given earlier. Talk to your child’s pediatrician to see if a referral to an allergist is right for them.
What is venom immunotherapy?
Venom immunotherapy can treat allergic reactions to insect stings from:
- Honey bees
- Yellow jackets
- Fire ants
Depending on your allergies, you may receive allergy shots containing insect-specific venom or mixed doses that treat several stinging insect allergies. A board certified allergist can run tests and provide you with the best treatment options for you.
Venom immunotherapy is the closest thing to a cure and is up to 98% effective in preventing systemic allergic reactions to bee/fire ant stings. Patients receive regular injections with small amounts of insect venom increasing in dosage over 3-5 years. This desensitizes them to the venom and builds up an immunity to future stings.