July 24, 2019
Could Allergy Shots Work for Me?
If you suffer from allergies that just won’t quit despite your best efforts to control them, allergy shots (subcutaneous immunotherapy) may provide the relief you desperately seek.
However, they are not a quick fix. Results vary but you should start seeing benefits from shots by the time you complete your build up process (i.e. reach maintenance dose). Lasting benefits from shots (i.e. benefits after stopping) are seen when taken regularly for at least 3-5 yrs.
But there’s great news! Many allergists now offer a progressive protocol called cluster immunotherapy. This allows the initial build-up phase to be much shorter than in the past. The traditional schedule requires 1-2 shots per week for 3-6 months. The cluster protocol shortens this phase to just 6-8 weeks because multiple shots are given per visit. After the maintenance dose is reached, shots are spaced out to once every 2-4 weeks.
Before you can start the shots, an allergist will run tests to see exactly what allergens trigger your reactions. Allergies to the following can improve with allergy shots:
- Insect stings (bees, hornets, wasps, yellow jackets)
- Grass pollen
- Tree pollen
- Weed pollen
Even children can benefit from allergy shots, although they usually need to be at least five years old to get started. Younger children may be unable to explain any adverse symptoms they experience after a shot, and it can also be tough to get them to cooperate. Pregnant women cannot start the allergy shot process but can continue it if the shots began prior to their pregnancy. People who take certain medications or have heart or lung disease may be unable to receive allergy shots.
Some questions to consider as you ponder whether allergy shots might be for you are:
- Am I willing and able to devote the time necessary to see the desired results?
- How severe are my symptoms?
- Do I suffer from allergies year-round, or are they only bad seasonally?
- Have I exhausted the other treatment options available to me (medications, home and lifestyle changes, etc)?
- Can I afford the shots long-term?
If allergies plague you year-round and you do not get relief from other treatment methods, allergy shots may feel like a no-brainer. While they do not work immediately, most people improve within a year of being on their maintenance dose. After 3-5 years, patients often stop the shots and live free of their former allergies. Others find that stopping the shots means a return of symptoms, so they go back to the allergist and restart shots in order to maintain lasting results.
No one should feel hopeless when it comes to debilitating allergies. Speak to your allergist about the options available to you. The benefits of allergy shots may vastly outweigh the negatives, and you’ll finally experience the freedom of healthy, allergy-free living.