(BlackDoctor.org) — Allergy shots are not a cure for allergies, but for the right patient, they can relieve nagging symptoms and be a very effective allergy management tool.
Allergy shots are a form of immunotherapy, or treatment designed to alter your body’s natural defenses, the immune system. When you have allergies, your immune system gets inappropriately revved up around things, like dust and pollen, that don’t bother other people. Allergy shots aim to make you less sensitive to allergens (substances that trigger allergies).
If you receive allergy shots as part of your allergy treatment, larger and larger amounts of an allergen will be given by injection over the course of several months. You gradually and scientifically administer the protein that someone is proven to be allergic to.
Who Should Consider Allergy Shots?
Allergy shots have been shown to be helpful in reducing allergy symptoms and in preventing the progression from seasonal allergies to asthma. Nevertheless, allergy shots are not for everyone.
If you think you or your child may be a candidate for allergy shots, consider the following:
- Is your child at least 5 years old? It is not recommended that children younger than age 5 start allergy shots, since it is difficult for them to tolerate multiple shots and as they get older new allergies may develop.
- Are the shots going to treat allergic asthma, allergic rhinitis (allergies leading to nasal swelling or inflammation), allergic conjunctivitis (eye irritation), or an insect sting allergy? Allergy shots are recommended for these types of allergies, but not for other types, such as food allergies. In the case of food allergies, the specific food trigger should simply be avoided.
- Does your child have allergic rhinitis? Allergy shots are particularly beneficial for children with allergic rhinitis because they can prevent the progression of their allergy to a more severe condition, such as asthma.
- Do the allergies persist for much of the year, and are the symptoms severe? Taking allergy shots requires time and commitment, so they may not be recommended for minor allergies.
- Are the symptoms being well-controlled by medication or lifestyle modifications? If other types of allergy treatment are controlling the allergy symptoms, allergy shots may not be necessary.
- How do you feel about using medication over the long term to control the allergy symptoms? If you would rather not use allergy medication indefinitely, allergy shots may be the solution.
- Have your or your child experienced adverse reactions to allergy medication? Allergy shots are beneficial for people who have unacceptable adverse reactions to allergy medication.
- Are you willing to commit time and effort to visiting the allergist regularly for up to three to five years? Most allergy shot regimens require in-office injections one to two times a week for three to six months, and then every two to four weeks for up to three to five years.
- Do you or your child have a problem with needles? Since allergy shots require so many injections, this type of allergy treatment can be difficult for someone with a fear of getting shots.
- Does your insurance cover allergy shots? Coverage for allergy shots varies, so contact your health insurance company to see if the shots will be covered.
If your allergist thinks you or your child may benefit from allergy shots, you will first need skin testing to identify the allergens that trigger the symptoms. Once the allergens are identified, the allergist can help decide whether allergy shots are right for you.