Allergy shots – can they help?
Yes. For those who suffer severe allergic reactions to substances like dust mites, pet dander and pollen, a series of shots can help.
Allergy occurs when a person’s immune system has an extreme overreative response to otherwise harmless substances or organisms called an allergen and produces Immunoglobulin E (IgE).
The immunoglobulin causes the body to release histamines into the bloodstream, which creates annoying allergy symptoms such as watery eyes and a runny nose to life-threatening reactions, like anaphylactic shock, that could cause death.
As we head into the fall, many allergy sufferers anticipate relief from the allergy symptoms that have plagued them through the spring and the summer. Others have no reprieve because dust, cats, dogs, peanuts and the like, need to be avoided year-round.
The best way to treat allergy is to avoid being exposed to the allergen. But, sometimes that is not possible. If the allergen cannot be avoided, a person may seek help from an allergist, a health care professional that specializes in allergy, who may prescribe antihistamines or inhaled or nasal spray steroids.
If reactions are severe and frequent or if taking medications to control symptoms is inconvenient, the allergist conduct allergy testing and may suggest allergy shots to help desensitize a person’s immune system.
Allergy shots, also known as immunotherapy, can help a person build tolerance to allergens.
The shots are usually given in two phases; the first phase includes one or two shots a week for 3 to 6 months to build tolerance; the second phase maintains tolerance with shots every 2 to 4 weeks for 3 to 5 years.
Allergy shots are not effective for food allergies like dairy products, eggs, seafood and shellfish, peanuts and tree nuts, soy, or wheat.
If you suffer with severe allergy, you may want to contact your primary care provider to see if you are a candidate for immunotherapy. If you currently do not have a primary care provider, you can search for one at http://ministryhealth.org/findadoctor/