Javed Sheikh, MD
Kathryn L Hale, MS, PA-C
Jeffrey Lee Kishiyama, MD
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
Stephen C Dreskin, MD, PhD
Allergy Shots Overview
Some allergens are simply impossible to avoid. You cannot live a normal life and completely avoid pollen, dust mites, mold spores, and certain other common triggers of allergic reactions. Many allergy sufferers use medications such as antihistamines and steroid nasal sprays to suppress their symptoms, and these medications are very effective in most. For people with very severe symptoms, and those who cannot take allergy medications, immunotherapy is an alternative.
Immunotherapy is the name for a treatment used by allergy specialists (allergists) to reduce sensitivity to allergens. This therapy is particularly useful for people with allergic rhinitis (sometimes called hay fever). Immunotherapy involves a series of injections (shots) given regularly for several years. In the past, this was called a serum, but this is an incorrect name. Most allergists now call this mixture an allergy extract. The first shots contain very tiny amounts of the antigen or antigens to which you are allergic. With progressively increasing dosages over time, your body will adjust to the antigen and become less sensitive to it. This process is called desensitization.
Immunotherapy is the only available treatment that can modify the natural course of the allergic disease. This means that a 3- to 5-year regimen of injections may result in long-term benefits that extend well beyond the completion of the regimen. Immunotherapy does not work for everyone and is only partly effective in some people, but it offers allergy sufferers the chance of eventually stopping medication or reducing the amount they have to take.
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