Allergy shots (subcutaneous immunotherapy, SCIT) are the most common form of immunotherapy. They can be used as a long-term treatment for seasonal, indoor and insect sting allergies.
How Do Allergy Shots Work?
They work by getting your body used to the allergen slowly, with the goal that you will develop an immunity or tolerance to the allergen. The process takes place in two phases, the build-up phase and the maintenance phase, and the whole program takes three to five years, depending upon your body’s response to the treatment.
The build-up phase involves a small amount of the allergen being injected into the upper arm once a week for a few months. The dosage is gradually increased at each visit. The length of the build-up phase depends entirely on your body’s response to the treatment; we will tailor your treatment to your body’s needs each time you visit.
Once you have reached the effective dose, typically the most you can handle without showing symptoms, the maintenance phase will begin. The dosage is no longer increased at each visit and the frequency of shots is decreased (every other week, then every month, etc). The goal of the maintenance phase is to provide your immune system memory to be able to appropriately handle allergens it may encounter for up to several years after the shot program is completed.
Who Can Get Allergy Shots?
Allergy shots are recommended for anyone whose symptoms are not well controlled through medications or those that want to reduce their long-term use of medications.
Are There Any Risks with Allergy Shots?
Since allergy shots contain a substance you are allergic to, there are some risks involved. Swelling and redness usually develop at the site of injection but are quick to clear up. Sneezing, nasal congestion and hives may develop as well as more severe reactions such as wheezing or chest-tightness. Anaphylaxis, the most serious reaction, rarely occurs.
Since these shots are administered in a clinical setting, any reaction that does occur can be easily treated.
What Can I Expect from Allergy Shots?
Allergy symptoms will not improve overnight; symptoms will typically improve over the first year of treatment and continue to improve over the next few years. The shots may even decrease symptoms for other allergens and prevent new allergies from developing.
We can help you get your head out of the fog. Call DeFatta ENT & Allergy at (715) 828-2368 to schedule an appointment.