Allergy Shots

1 What are Allergy Shots?

Allergy shots are injections that are administered at regular intervals over a period of about three to five years in order to stop or reduce allergy attacks.

Allergy shots are a kind of procedure known as immunotherapy. Each allergy shot contains a specific portion of the agent responsible for the allergic reaction. These are called allergens.

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.

2 Reasons for Procedure

Allergy shots may be a good procedure choice for you for the following reasons:

  • medications are not able to control your symptoms well
  • allergy medications interact with other medications you need to take or cause troubling effects
  • you desire to reduce your long-term use of allergy medication and you are allergic to insect stings

Allergy shots can be utilized to control the symptoms triggered by the following:

Seasonal allergies

You may be allergic to pollens released by trees, grasses or weeds if you have seasonal allergic asthma or high fever symptoms.

The second point is indoor allergens

If you show year-round symptoms, you may be sensitive to indoor allergens like dust mites, cockroaches, mold, or dander from normal pets like cats and dogs.

Insect stings

Insects like bees, wasps, hornets or yellow jackets may me the trigger of allergic reactions to insects.

Allergy shots are not available for food allergies or chronic hives (urticaria).

3 Potential Risks

Generally, there are few potential risks, but most individuals do not have any complications with allergy shots.

However, these contain the substances causing your allergies, reaction is, therefore, possible and may include:

  • 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. 

4 Preparing for your Procedure

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.

5 What to Expect

Here’s what you can expect before, during, and after your allergy shots procedure:

In most cases, allergy shots are injected in the upper arm.

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.

6 Procedure Results

Allergy symptoms will not cease overnight. If you do not understand your allergy shots results, consult with your doctor.

They usually during the first year of treatment, the most noticeable improvement often happens within the second year.

By the third year, most individuals are desensitized to the allergens contained in the shots and no longer have any significant allergic reactions to those substances.

After a few years of successful treatment, a number of individuals have significant allergy problems even after shots are stopped. Other people need ongoing shots to keep the symptoms under control.