Over 50 million Americans suffer from allergies every year. Allergies are the immune system’s irregular response to outer stimuli. Allergies can occur from a reaction to typically harmless things like medication, food, pollen, or insect bites. Your antibodies inform your body that the substance is harmful, causing them to respond with inflammation. This can occur on the skin, in the airways, and even in the digestive system.
The severity of allergies can range depending on the individual. Some allergy sufferers can have mild irritation while others can experience anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening reaction to an allergen. Typically, allergies can’t be cured. With medical intervention like immunotherapy shots, allergy symptoms can be drastically reduced. Allergy shots are a common and effective method of controlling allergy symptoms.
What are Allergy Shots?
Immunotherapy, commonly referred to as allergy shots, are used to familiarize your body with allergens. They help your body adjust to substances and minimize your symptoms. If you experience allergies for at least three months of the year, immunotherapy shots may be the solution for you.
Allergy shots typically work for people who don’t find relief from allergy medication. To start, your immunotherapist will give you an allergen evaluation to see which ones to include in your immunotherapy treatment. This includes mold, pet dander, pollen, insect venom, and several others. Once they identify which allergens trigger symptoms, they create custom shots to gradually familiarize your body. The immunotherapist will perform your evaluation by sticking a needle in either your back or forearm. After your diagnosis, you will begin your immunotherapy shot sessions.
There are two main allergy shot phases: buildup and maintenance. During the buildup phase, your specialist will administer the allergy shot one or two times per week depending on the severity of your allergies. The shot injects minimal amounts of the allergen into your arm. Your dosage will increase with higher tolerance to the injections. This treatment can take up to six months depending on your body’s response type.
After completing the buildup portion of immunotherapy, you will move on to the maintenance portion of treatment. You will only receive one or two shots per month for up to five years. Oftentimes, your symptoms will drastically reduce during this phase and may even go away. If this occurs, you may be able to discontinue treatment altogether. If you are in the maintenance phase and have seen little-to-no positive changes, speak with your immunotherapy specialist about an alternative treatment option.
Immunotherapy Preparation and Aftercare
There are many precautions to take before allergy shot treatments. Be sure to avoid intense physical activity for 2 hours before and after receiving your immunotherapy treatment. Overactivity increases blood flow, which allows the allergen to spread through the body quicker and increase symptoms. If you take medications for other conditions, you should also speak to your specialist before beginning treatment to avoid interference. If you are pregnant, you should consult a professional before taking allergy treatments. While immunotherapy is typically safe, you will need to be monitored during treatments for reactions. Your dosage will also be determined by your pregnancy and dosages can’t increase until after your delivery.
After receiving your treatment, you will remain in the office for at least 30 minutes. This is to ensure there aren’t any post-treatment side effects that can potentially send you back to the hospital. If you experience any adverse side effects after leaving treatment, return or go to the emergency room for immediate care.
Alternative Allergy Treatment
Shots are not the only form of immunotherapy. If you suffer from mild to moderate allergies, you may qualify for sublingual immunotherapy. Commonly referred to as under-the-tongue immunotherapy, are great for allergies including grass and dust mites. Researchers believe sublingual immunotherapy will be effective for food allergies soon.
While sublingual immunotherapy is not as effective for ALL allergies, they are an option for people who prefer a convenient, non-invasive method of relief. Keep in mind, most insurance policies do not cover sublingual therapy. Similar to allergy shots, your first couple of sublingual immunotherapy treatments with your immunotherapy specialist. This allows them to monitor how your body will receive treatment and potential side effects. Once cleared, you can begin taking treatments at home.
Immunotherapy shots are not effective for everyone. People with health conditions outside of allergies can worsen their health by taking allergy shots. People taking medications, suffering from heart or lung disease, or poor health should avoid allergy shots. In these cases, speak with your doctor about alternative allergy relief.
There are everyday things you can do to keep allergy symptoms at bay. You can use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. These filters collect airborne allergens like dust and pet dander before you can inhale them and trigger your allergies. If you experience allergy-related swelling, consuming bromelain is a natural remedy. Eating pineapple or papaya can help open swollen airways and make breathing easier.
Oftentimes, excess moisture causes mold and mildew. Using an air conditioner or dehumidifier can keep air dry enough to minimize mold and mildew growth. Less exposure to these allergens means less symptoms. If you want to lower your immune response to harmless substances, consider taking vitamin C. Taking 2,000 milligrams of vitamin C every day drastically reduces histamine levels.
While you may never completely rid yourself of allergy symptoms, immunotherapy shots are a great option to keep them under control. By introducing your body to allergens over time, your body gets used to them and triggers fewer responses like inflammation. In addition to taking immunotherapy shots, consider everyday tasks like taking vitamins and dehumidifying the air to minimize allergen exposure. Be sure to contact an allergist to get an evaluation to begin your allergy shot treatments. Penn Medicine Becker ENT offers allergy shots Philadelphia, Princeton, New Jersey, and other locations. Visit their website for consultation and treatment information today.
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