Allergy shots contain just enough allergens to stimulate your immune system but not enough to cause a full allergic reaction. With time, your doctor increases your dose of allergens in each of your allergy shots.
This is very helpful to the body to get used to the allergens (desensitization).
Your immune system develops a tolerance to the allergens, this causes the allergy symptoms to dwindle with time.
Local reactions involve redness, swelling or irritation at the injection site. These common reactions typically begin within a few hours of the injection and usually clear up soon after.
Another less common but potentially more serious are systemic reactions. You might develop nasal congestion, sneeze or even hives. More severe reactions may include throat swelling, wheezing or chest tightness.
Anaphylaxis is an uncommon life-threatening reaction to allergic shots. It can cause low blood pressure and trouble breathing. It usually begins within 30 minutes of the injection, it can start later than that as well.
If you get weekly or monthly shots on a regular schedule without missing any doses, you are more unlikely to have a serious reaction.
Taking antihistamine medication before getting your allergy shot can lower your risk of a reaction. It is important to check with your doctor to see if this is recommended for you.
The possibility of a severe reaction is frightening, but you will not be alone. You will be monitored in the doctor's office for a period of 30 minutes after each shot when the most severe reactions happen.
If you have a serious reaction after you leave, return to your doctor's office or go to the nearest emergency room.
Prior to preparing for the procedure of allergy shots, your doctor will utilize a skin test to determine that your reactions are caused by an allergy and what particular allergen is responsible for your signs and symptoms.
During a skin test, a small amount of the suspected allergen is scratched into your skin and the area is then monitored for about 15 minutes. Swelling and redness indicate an allergic reaction to the substance.
Your doctor may also use a blood test. When you go in for allergy shots, let the medical staff know if you are feeling unwell in any particular way. This is very important especially in cases of asthma. You should also let them know if you had any symptoms after a previous allergy shot.
In order to be effective, they are administered on a schedule that usually involves two phases:
In general, the buildup phase takes three to six months. Shots are typically given one to three times a week. Within the buildup phase, the allergen dose is systematically increased with every shot given.
The second phase is called the maintenance phase, it generally proceeds for three to five years or longer. You will require maintenance shots about once in a month. In some cases, the buildup phase is done with rapidity (rush immunotherapy), this requires several injections of increasing doses during each visit with the doctor.
This can reduce the amount of time you need to reach the maintenance phase and get relief from allergy symptoms, but it also increases your risk of having a severe reaction. You will need to stay in the doctor's office for 30 minutes after each shot, this is in the case where you do not have a reaction.
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