Patient Information about Allergy Immunotherapy
The history and physical examination is the most important part of an allergy evaluation. Allergy skin testing is important for determining what sensitivities a patient has to allergens and/or foods. If allergy shots are indicated, your allergy serum will be prepared based on the findings of your examination.
Allergy Shots or "Immunotherapy"
Allergy Immunotherapy or "allergy shots" are administered to patients who have severe allergic symptoms that are not controlled by medications and/or changes in the patient's environment, or which persist and require daily medications. Immunotherapy is also administered to patients who are having recurrent sinopulmonary infections despite the fact that their immune work-up is normal.
Allergy shots are very effective because they "turn down" a patient's allergic reactions to common pollens, molds and dust. The initial 6-12 month course of allergy shots gradually decreases a patient's sensitivity. The continuation of allergy shots leads to further improvement in the patient's sensitivities, resulting in fewer symptoms and use of fewer medications. It is important to maintain allergy shots at the proper time intervals. Missing shots for a short period, for a vacation or for some other commitment, is acceptable with appropriate regulation of the resumption dosage.
Duration of Immunotherapy
A patient should not expect immediate improvement in their symptoms. It may require 4-6 months before any relief of allergy symptoms is noticed and it may take up to 12 months for the full benefit to occur. After reaching the maintenance dose, the interval between shots will be changed to 2-4 weeks, depending upon the patient's allergy sensitivities. After obtaining good results for four years, a patient may discontinue allergy shots if a repeat skin test indicates that there are no longer sensitivities to aero-allergens.
After discontinuing immunotherapy, some patients may continue to do well and some may have a slight increase in symptoms that will be controlled with medications. Others may have greater symptoms that will require resumption of allergy shots. Your physician will periodically re-evaluate you while you are on allergy immunotherapy. Changes in your allergy extract or shot schedule may be necessary to obtain the best results.
Allergy shots should be administered at a medical facility, under the orders of a medical physician, since occasional reactions may occur that require immediate therapy. These reactions may consist of any or all of the following symptoms: itchy eyes, nose or throat, nasal congestion, runny nose, tightness in the throat or chest, coughing, wheezing, lightheadedness faintness, nausea and vomiting, hives and generalized itching. Rarely, under extreme conditions, life-threatening symptoms may occur. Immunotherapy is effective if standard guidelines and appropriate safeguards are followed.