All of the medications listed earlier are meant to control allergy symptoms. Allergy desensitization (immunotherapy) via allergy shot administration is a safe and highly effective way to relieve and/or eliminate allergic symptoms. In fact, allergen immunotherapy is the only form of therapy that will actually alter your body’s immune response to allergens. In addition, it has been shown that this therapy may prevent the onset of asthma and even the onset of new allergies. Immunotherapy has also been shown to reduce medication usage and increase pulmonary function in asthmatics.
After careful allergy testing, an allergist can provide a formulation for your specific needs. A serum is created using purified extracts of the allergen and is administered as shots in the allergist’s office. The shots are given weekly for approximately the first 6 months. The dose is increased each week until the final maintenance dose is reached, which can be significantly more concentrated than the initial dose. Once the maintenance dose is reached, the allergy shots can begin to be given less frequently. Monthly shots are continued for a period of 3 to 5 years. This time line for the shots is just an approximation and depends on the allergist’s philosophy and the degree of severity of the allergy.
Although it is rare, an allergic reaction to the shots can occur at any time. This is why it is mandatory not only that the shots are administered in an allergist’s office but that the patient remains in the office for 20 minutes after the injection.
Allergen immunotherapy should be considered for patients who continue to have moderate to severe symptoms despite therapy, who require systemic corticosteroids, who have an inadequate response to the recommended doses of nasal corticosteroids, or who have co-existing conditions such as sinusitis, asthma, or both.
Allergen immunotherapy can also be administered by placing drops of the extract sublingually (under your tongue). Although mild oral and sublingual itching occurs, there have been no reports of systemic reactions to this therapy. The rarity of systemic reactions suggests that this therapy is safer than traditional allergy shots. However, the efficacy of sublingual therapy is apparently less than that of subcutaneous immunotherapy.
Sublingual immunotherapy is available only in certain centers in the United States because there is no commercial production available at this time.