Immunotherapy, also known as “allergy shots” is a way of making the body less sensitive to specific substances known as allergens. With reduced sensitivity comes a reduction in your allergy symptoms. Allergic sensitivity is determined by allergy skin tests, or blood tests. This information is used to determine which allergens contribute to your reactions. Mixtures of these allergens are then developed for your therapy. The mixtures are given by injections under the skin.
By starting with extremely tiny doses and gradually increasing, the immune system becomes more tolerant, and thus your allergy symptoms are reduced. There are 2 stages of immunotherapy. Build-Up: This is the 1st stage when the amount of each injection is slowly increased. Most patients receive injections once per week, though if your schedule allows, you can come twice weekly. There are about 25 steps to complete this 1st phase. During this phase some but not all of our patients notice any improvement in their symptoms. Maintenance: The 2nd stage. Once you have reached the highest dose of each mixture, that dose is repeated once a month. Benefits from immunotherapy have been shown when a patient reaches this dose. Because of the potential risk of an allergic reaction, shots are only given by medical professionals trained in the proper administration, and in the recognition and management of complications. For this reason shots are given in the MLA Worcester office only.
There is a 20-30 minute observation period after each shot during which you will wait in the office to be sure that you do not have an allergic reaction. At least 80% of patients who receive immunotherapy have a significant improvement in their allergy symptoms, although many do not feel completely “cured.” Not everyone is able to stop taking all of their allergy medications. Allergy shots do not cure you of your allergies, only make you more tolerant upon allergen exposure or during your season. If therapy is stopped some of the symptoms may return, though most individuals have some long-lasting benefit well beyond the time the shots were discontinued. Because of the need to maintain a regular injection schedule, immunotherapy should not be started unless your schedule allows for fairly regular visits.
If your symptoms are troublesome despite avoidance strategies and medications, allergy immunotherapy may be right for you.