How Effective Are Allergy Shots

Throughout the year, but especially springtime, itchy, watery eyes, runny noses, sniffling, and sneezing come and go based on what is happening with pollen levels. Some may be allergic to one type of plant or tree while others have a certain type of grass they may be allergic to. Based on what type of outdoor allergen your body reacts to (often many different types) decides when your body will battle allergy symptoms. Many people will do everything in their power to avoid those allergies by staying indoors when they know those specific plants, trees, or grass are pollinating. We are going to take a look and see how allergy shots could be a benefit.

allergy shots

While it may be possible to avoid exposure to allergens, often it is not practical. Aside from natural supplements, daily allergy medications, and using every trick known to man to prevent allergy symptoms, there is another way to help allergy sufferers. Immunotherapy. Immunotherapy in the form of allergy shots is becoming more and more popular. If you are not a fan of needles, this may not be an option in your opinion but you have to weigh the benefits vs the fear of needles. Which one is worse, dealing with allergies or dealing with needles? That is the first choice you have to make. Let’s dig a little deeper so you can make an educated decision on whether or not allergy shots are for you.

So, how do they work?

First off, your doctor will likely refer you to an allergist. The allergist will do specific allergy testing to find what types of environmental allergies you may have. If you are allergic to specific tree pollen such as oak pollen, your doctor would then set up a day and time for you to have allergy shots each week that contains a small dose of oak pollen. It is a small enough dose that would not cause you to have allergy symptoms but yet enough that it would help your body recognize and get used to fighting that specific type of pollen. Then, the next time your body senses oak pollen, it will recognize it and prevent you from having as severe of a reaction as once before. Typically allergy shots are given weekly or bi-weekly over a period of several months or longer to build up immunity to the specific allergen.

Are Allergy Shots Safe?

Most people have positive results from allergy shots… But not everyone. Extreme caution should be taken if a patient suffers from severe heart problems, asthma, or ongoing respiratory problems. Children under the age of five should not be given allergy shots.

What to Expect

Once your allergist has determined that allergy shots are the right thing for you, and you have agreed, your doctor will determine if you will receive allergy shots once or twice a week. The doctor can choose to extend the duration as it gets closer to the completion date if they feel you need to continue longer. After the weekly shots are completed, you will be required to have maintenance shots once a month for about 3-5 years based on the severity of your allergies. After a couple of years, you can discuss with your allergist about ending your treatment. 

They will also determine the estimated length of treatment. After all of that is determined, you will begin treatment. Each time you go in for allergy shots, you will be asked how you are feeling. If you are feeling ill, the doctor may suggest rescheduling or skipping your shots for that particular day. When you arrive at your doctor’s office, check in with the receptionist and they will have a nurse call you back to either the lab, nurse’s station, or a room. Typically, when you go in for allergy shots, you will not see the actual doctor unless there is a concern. After the shot is administered, most offices will have the patient sit in the waiting room for 15-20 minutes. The nurse will come to check for swelling around the injection site and make sure the patient isn’t having any allergic reactions to the shot. Once the patient has been checked, they are free to leave. 

Are There Any Side Effects?

Allergy shots are typically harmless to the patient but occasionally, an allergic reaction to the shot is possible. Some may experience harmful side effects such as feelings of shock when the shot is initially injected. Others may battle light-headedness or nausea due to the mixture being administered or simply from seeing the needle. This is the reason patients are required to stay for 15-20 minutes following an injection. Reactions do not happen often but it is possible. 

While some swear by allergy shots, others would say they are not effective. If you are considering immunotherapy, start with talking to your doctor. Your primary care doctor should have enough of your medical history to be able to make a decision of whether or not they feel allergy shots would be effective for you. At that point, it is up to you to weigh the pros and cons of immunotherapy.

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