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Immunotherapy Can Provide Lasting Allergy Relief

Allergy image

Immunotherapy treatment (allergy shots) is based on a century-old concept that the immune system can be desensitized to specific allergens that trigger allergy symptoms. These symptoms may be caused by allergic respiratory conditions, such as allergic rhinitis and asthma.

While allergy medications often con­trol symptoms, if you stop taking your medication, your allergy symptoms re­turn shortly afterward. Allergy shots can potentially lead to lasting remission of allergy symptoms, and they may even prevent the development of asthma and new allergies.

The Process
Immunotherapy treat­ment involves injecting the allergen or allergens causing your allergy symp­toms. These allergens are identified by a combination of a medical evaluation performed by a trained healthcare pro­fessional and allergy skin or blood tests.

Some people have lasting remission of their allergy symptoms with immuno­therapy, but others may relapse after discontinuing treatment.

Treatment begins with a build-up phase. Injections containing increasing amounts of the allergen are given one to two times a week until the target dose is reached. This target dose varies from person to person. The target dose may be reached in three to six months with a conventional schedule of one dose increase per visit. Or it may be achieved in a shorter period and fewer visits with an accelerated schedule.

The maintenance phase begins when the target dose is reached. Once the maintenance dose is reached, the time between allergy injections can be in­creased. It generally ranges from every two weeks to every four weeks. Main­tenance immunotherapy treatment is usually continued for three to five years.

Some people have lasting remission of their allergy symptoms with immuno­therapy, but others may relapse after discontinuing treatment. Therefore, the duration of allergen immunotherapy varies from person to person.

Risks involved with immunotherapy are rare, but may include serious, life-threatening anaphylaxis. For that reason, immunotherapy should only be given under the supervision of a physician or qualified physician extender (such as a nurse practitioner or physician assistant) in a facility equipped with proper staff and equipment to identify and treat ad­verse reactions to allergy injections.

The decision to begin immunotherapy is based on several factors, including the length of the allergy season and severity of your symptoms, how well medications and allergen avoidance measures con­trol your allergy symptoms, and your desire to avoid long-term medication use. Immunotherapy will also require a sig­nificant time commitment during the build-up phase, and a less frequent com­mitment during the maintenance phase.


Source: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology,

This article was originally published in Coping® with Allergies & Asthma magazine, Winter 2011-2012.