Allergy shots deliver an injection comprised of the natural substances to which an individual is allergic. Allergy shots are not to be confused with steroid injections, wherein an individual receives an injection of steroids that is released into the body to control an allergic response.
Allergy shots are an excellent option for those who suffer from environmental allergies, have difficulty taking standard allergy medications, do not like taking medications regularly, or who cannot easily avoid allergic triggers. They are also beneficial in patients who suffer from allergic asthma, and effective in those with allergies to stinging insects. Allergy shots for stinging insects can normalize the chance of a severe reaction, reducing the likelihood from a 30-60% chance if a person has had a severe reaction down to that of the general population (approximately 2% chance).
Once an allergist determines the environmental allergens to which you are sensitive, extracts of those substances are administered via injection. The shot contains a small dose of allergen (which will slowly increase over time) intended to re-program your immune system. In time your body can develop a protective response, called tolerance, and when exposed to these triggers your allergy and/or asthma symptoms will be tempered.
Allergen immunotherapy (“allergy shots”) is the only known means to provide sustained reduction in one’s allergic sensitizations. That is, after stopping many patients continue to enjoy the benefits they experienced while taking injections. This is termed disease modification. Most commonly, allergy shots are administered to increase a patient’s tolerance to the environmental allergens that provoke allergy symptoms. Allergy shots are administered regularly with increasing doses. Initially you may need to receive shots one to three times a week, and over time, as the dose increases, the frequency of visits will decrease to as little as once in every five weeks. Many patients can stop allergy shots in three to five years and experience a long or permanent remission.
Allergy shots treat a wide range of common allergies, including dust mites, pollen, mold and pet dander. They are also an option for those with a history of severe allergic reactions to insect stings from bees, wasps, yellow jackets, hornets and fire ants; unfortunately they are not indicated as treatment for food allergies.
Allergy shots should also be considered by those whose symptoms are not controlled by medications alone or that require excessive medications to control their symptoms,as well as in those who experience side effects of medications. Some prefer allergy immunotherapy to daily use of medications. Individuals, who suffer from comorbidities of allergies (multiple allergies/illnesses) such as asthma, chronic sinusitis, or frequent ear infections, can also benefit from the effects of allergen immunotherapy.
Allergy shots can permanently modify allergies, and can drastically improve the severity and frequency of annoying and even life-threatening allergy symptoms. Ask your allergist if allergy shots may work for you!
The Allergy and Asthma Medical Group of the Bay Area has office locations in Walnut Creek, San Ramon, Brentwood, Pleasanton and Berkeley. Our Board Certified Allergists treat both adults and children. We offer extended office hours to accommodate patients with busy schedules.