Allergy patients who do not find relief from medications often turn to immunotherapy, usually referred to as allergy shots or allergy drops. By receiving small amounts of allergen through injections on a regular basis, your body will eventually build up tolerance to the substance. Over time, symptoms will decrease or disappear entirely. Immunotherapy is the most effective long-term allergy treatment available in North Sioux City.

How Immunotherapy Works

In order to identify the allergen responsible for your symptoms, you will be given skin or blood allergy tests. Once your allergist has determined which substance is causing you trouble, an extract will be prepared and administered through an injection in your upper arm. Initially, you will receive a small dose once or twice a week. This is known as the buildup phase, which will last between three and six months.

As you become desensitized to the allergen, the dosage is slowly increased until you reach an effective dose. This is called the maintenance phase. Shots are spaced apart every two to four weeks for several months. It may take up to a year from this point to notice any improvement. You will continue to receive shots for three to five years in the maintenance phase.

Effectiveness of Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is a safe and effective treatment for allergy sufferers whose symptoms do not improve with medical treatment. It is FDA-approved and has been in use in the United States since 1977. Generally, the longer you continue treatment and the higher the maintenance dose, the more long-term success you will have. Some patients experience no further symptoms after completing immunotherapy treatment, but others may see symptoms return after allergy shots are discontinued.

Immunotherapy is most effective for patients allergic to pollen, mold spores, dust mites, pet dander and insect stings. They are ineffective at treating food or drug allergies.

A little redness or swelling at the injection site is common, but serious side effects or complications are rare. A small number of patients might notice an increase in allergy symptoms. Regular injections will reduce the odds of serious reactions from occurring.

Immunotherapy is a method of allergy treatment that involves introducing small amounts of allergen to the body and then gradually building up doses over a period of time in order for immunity to develop. There are two types of immunotherapy treatments: allergy shots and sublingual immunotherapy (allergy drops).

Individuals with allergy symptoms that do not respond to medical treatment are prime candidates for immunotherapy. Once the allergen trigger has been identified, an extract of that substance is prepared. The delivery method depends on which type of immunotherapy treatment the patient is receiving.

Allergy Shots

Those who opt for allergy shots are given small injections in the upper arm once or twice a week until a maintenance dose is reached. The frequency is gradually reduced over a period of several months until the patient is receiving shots about once a month. It takes as long as five years for the body to build up a tolerance to the allergen, so treatment is a long-term commitment.

Sublingual Immunotherapy

Sublingual immunotherapy works on the same principle, but instead of shots, the patient is given drops that are placed under the tongue for several minutes and then swallowed. This is usually done on a daily basis and, like allergy shots, results take anywhere from three to five years. Sublingual immunotherapy is not yet FDA approved but has several advantages over allergy shots, namely the ability to self-administer at home and a lower risk of side effects and allergic reactions.

Is Immunotherapy Safe?

Both forms of immunotherapy are considered safe and effective long-term treatments for a number of allergies. It is most effective for those allergic to pollen, mold, dust mites, animal dander and insect venom. It will not work for food or drug allergies.

Side effects and complications are rare. Those receiving allergy shots might notice a little redness, swelling and tenderness at the injection site. Maintaining a consistent injection schedule helps to reduce the odds of serious reactions.