9 Things EVERYONE Should Know About Allergy Shots
Unfortunately, more than 50 million U.S. adults are dealing with a certain type of allergy every year. What’s even worse, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America found that allergies are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in America.
I think these statistics alone are more than enough reason for us to stay informed on how allergies work and what we can do to protect ourselves from their negative impact.
Allergen immunotherapy, or allergy shots, have been gaining more and more popularity over the past few years. Multiple studies already proved that this treatment can have life-changing benefits for children, adults and the elderly alike. In fact, research shows that people of ages 65 to 75 had their hay fever symptoms reduced by up to 55% due to allergen immunotherapy.
However, Laura Dziadzio, MD, pediatric allergist and assistant professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, says that this therapy method doesn’t provide the same benefits for everyone. While some patients may not notice any difference in their symptoms, others can live a normal life again thanks to such treatments.
Before you opt for allergen immunotherapy, though, here are 10 essential things you should know:
You may have bad reactions
An allergy shot contains tiny quantities of the specific substance you are allergic to. With each injection, the quantity of the allergen increases slightly to allow your body to build up tolerance.
As Dr. Dziadzio explains, this type of therapy helps your immune system to learn that it doesn’t need to react negatively to that specific allergen. In some cases, patients can even come off medication safely after taking allergy shots.
However, we’re still talking about allergens, so bad reactions can happen during therapy. Common symptoms may include:
- Itching at the injection site
- Sneezing and/or runny nose
Although it’s extremely rare, some patients may experience an anaphylactic shock as well. In order to make sure you’re safe, your doctor will keep you in the office for 30 minutes to make sure your body is reacting well after the shot; also, if the specialist notices any unusual symptom, they can provide immediate treatment.
They’re not just for seasonal allergies
Most people are allergic to seasonal substances and compounds (think hay fever). Gladly, though, allergy shots can also have a positive outcome for patients with year-round allergies. The most common examples include allergies to mold, dust mites, animal dander or insect bites.
Dr. Dziadzio advises her patients to start allergen immunotherapy particularly for insect bites, which can cause very dangerous reactions if you don’t take medicine right after the bite. The option may also be worth it if you own a pet, for instance, and you become allergic to them.
They’re time consuming
As I was saying above, it’s important to make sure that taking allergy shots is really worth it and life changing for you. Why?
Allergy immunotherapy has two phases. During phase one, you have to take a shot twice a week for three to six months. The second phase, also known as the maintenance phase, only requires one shot once a month for several years.
In order to make the therapy work, it’s crucial that you don’t skip any shots so your body learns to accept the allergen. Although the shot itself takes a few seconds of your time, you still have to spend extra 30 minutes at the doctor’s office for safety reasons.