Allergy Shots or Immunotherapy
What is an ‘allergy shot’?
Allergy shots are given to you by your doctor to treat allergic symptoms for substances ranging from pollen, mold, weeds, grass and trees to animal dander, dust mites, cats, horses and feathers. Your allergy may be seasonal, affecting you only during spring or autumn, or it may bother you year-round, especially if it is related to exposure to animals or certain foods.
You might be surprised to know that allergy shots actually contain a small amount of the substance you are allergic to. For example, if you are allergic to pollen, the shot will contain a small amount of pollen. This might sound like it doesn’t make sense, but it works because allergy shots are designed to help your body fight the substance that is causing the allergy in the first place. When you are given the shot containing the allergic substance, your body fights to create antibodies to the allergen. The next time you eat or touch the thing you are allergic to, the antibodies you created will block the allergen, so that your symptoms are not as severe. After receiving a series of allergy shots, you will probably begin to feel quite a bit of relief from your symptoms and the relief should last quite a while.
You can expect to receive allergy shots once or twice a week for about 6 months, then your doctor will put you on a ‘maintenance’ schedule of receiving the shots once a month for 3 to 5 years. You may be able to discontinue the shots at that point. Allergy shots are very effective for pollen allergies, bee sting allergies, some types of drug-related allergies and eye allergies. Sometimes they can also help with asthma. Only your doctor can test your allergies and decide if allergy shots can treat your type of allergy. Antihistamines, medicine designed to relieve allergy symptoms, can be helpful with other allergy types, such as mold, dust mites, grass, animal allergies, animal dander, and feathers.
One word of caution: if you have severe asthma or heart problems, take beta blockers, are pregnant, or are treating allergies in a child under 5 years old, allergy shots may not be an option for you.