Allergies have plagued many individuals, leading to a continuous search for effective treatments. Among the available treatments, allergy shots or allergen immunotherapy have gained popularity. But the question remains, do allergy shots work?

This article is from a series of blog posts on the topic of allergy doctors. Please also check out this popular and related article: Do Allergists treat sinus infections?

Understanding Allergies and Allergy Symptoms

Before diving into the world of allergy shots, it’s essential to understand allergies. An allergy is an immune system overreaction to substances called allergens, usually harmless. Common allergens include pollen, dust mites, and dander. When a person with an allergy comes into contact with an allergen, they might sneeze, have allergic rhinitis, or even develop allergic asthma.

What Are Allergy Shots and How Do They Work?

Allergy shots, scientifically termed allergen immunotherapy, involve injecting small amounts of allergens into the body. The idea is to help your body become accustomed to the allergen over time, reducing or eliminating your allergic reactions. This form of long-term treatment aims to treat the root cause of allergy symptoms rather than merely masking them like some allergy medications.

Benefits of Getting Allergy Shots

The primary goal of getting allergy shots is decreasing sensitivity to allergens and reducing allergy symptoms. Some potential benefits include:

Reduced Severity: Many individuals find that their allergy symptoms, whether sneezing or more severe reactions like allergic asthma, become less severe after undergoing immunotherapy.

Reduced Medication Dependency: As symptoms decrease, dependency on allergy medications might also decline.

Long-term Relief: Unlike medications that provide short-term relief, allergy shots may offer lasting results, potentially for several years after completing the treatment.

Who Should Consider Allergy Shots?

If you’re wondering whether you should get allergy shots, consider the following:

Severity of Symptoms: Those with moderate to severe allergic rhinitis or allergic asthma might benefit the most.

Ineffectiveness of Medications: If over-the-counter or prescribed allergy medications aren’t helping, allergen immunotherapy is the next step.

The Desire for Long-term Solution: Those looking for a longer-lasting solution than daily medications might opt for allergy shots.

However, it’s essential to note that only some are candidates for allergy shots. For instance, those with severe food allergies might not be eligible as the risk of anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction, is too high.

The Process of Allergen Immunotherapy

Before starting the treatment, an allergist will conduct an allergy test to determine which allergens trigger your symptoms. Once identified, the therapy comprises two phases:

Build-up Phase: This phase involves getting injections with increasing allergens. The shots may be administered once or twice a week.

Maintenance Phase: Once the effective dose is reached, the frequency of the shots decreases. This phase might last for 3-5 years or longer.

Although most people tolerate the injections well, some might experience swelling or itching at the injection site. In rare cases, a more severe reaction can occur, emphasizing the importance of receiving the shots under a trained allergist’s supervision.

Comparing Allergy Shots with Other Treatments

When it comes to managing allergies, many options are available. Besides allergy shots, both over-the-counter and prescription medications are widely used. While allergy medications like antihistamines and corticosteroids provide immediate relief from symptoms, their effects are often temporary. On the other hand, allergen immunotherapy aims to provide a more long-term solution by tackling the root cause of the allergies. It’s essential to weigh the pros and cons of each treatment method and consider factors such as duration, cost, and potential side effects.

Cost-effectiveness of Allergy Shots

Over time, allergy shots may be a cost-effective solution for many individuals. While the upfront costs seem high due to the frequent visits and shots during the build-up phase, the potential reduction or elimination of allergy symptoms can lead to decreased dependency on daily medications. Over several years, the cumulative costs of drugs can surpass the total expense of allergen immunotherapy.

 Managing Expectations

It’s essential to manage expectations when opting for allergy shots. While many individuals report significantly reducing allergy symptoms, results can vary. Some might experience complete relief, while others may notice only a partial reduction in symptoms. Factors influencing the effectiveness include:

Children and Allergy Shots

Children, too, can benefit from allergen immunotherapy. Studies have indicated that allergy shots might prevent the progression of allergic diseases in children, such as transitioning from allergic rhinitis to allergic asthma. However, the decision to start a child on allergy shots should be carefully considered, considering the child’s age, the severity of their symptoms, and ability to communicate any adverse reactions.