Immunotherapy | Allergy Shots
Allergy Immunotherapy Information from St. Louis Allergy and Asthma Doctors
Our St. Louis asthma doctors find that allergy immunotherapy treatment, commonly known as allergy shots, is a very helpful approach for some patients. For persons who suffer from chronic allergic diseases in St. Louis, such as sinus problems or hay fever, getting allergy shots can be life-changing. This allergy treatment is not right for everyone, as it requires a commitment of long-term treatment. An allergist at our St. Louis asthma clinic can help you determine if allergy shots are the right allergy treatment for you.
A St. Louis Allergist Explains Immunotherapy
There are three basic approaches our St. Louis allergists use to treat allergic diseases (such as allergic rhinitis, hay fever, sinus problems, and asthma). These approaches are:
- avoidance of the offending allergens
- allergy and asthma medications
- allergy immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots
The main advantage of allergy immunotherapy for people in St. Louis is that it is the only way that we have at present to actually decrease the severity of your allergic problems. Medications and environmental controls only work as long as you continue to take the medication or continue to avoid the allergen. Our St. Louis allergy clinic has treated many patients who have benefited from allergy shots; allergy immunotherapy can actually make you less allergic. In addition, after a course of immunotherapy allergy treatment in St. Louis concludes, most patients will experience a prolonged remission of their allergies. This is not to say that the allergies are completely gone or cured, but that they are less than they were prior to the immunotherapy program. The main disadvantage of immunotherapy as an allergy treatment in St. Louis is the effort involved in the immunotherapy program. This program is outlined below.
St. Louis Allergy Doctors Offer Allergy Immunotherapy Program
Your immunotherapy program is based on the results of your allergy skin testing and your evaluation by your St. Louis allergist. Allergy injections consist of extracts of the actual allergens discovered on your skin testing, for instance pollens, molds, dust allergens, and animal dander. There is therefore risk of allergic reactions to allergy shots, necessitating a number of precautions. First, your St. Louis allergy treatment shots will initially be very dilute, and will slowly build up in volume and concentration. Second, allergy shots must be given in a medically supervised setting, which generally means going to the clinic your St. Louis allergy doctor, where serious reactions can be appropriately and immediately treated. Third, you must always wait 20 to 30 minutes in the allergist’s office after each allergy injection, since serious reactions, which can be very severe, usually occur in this time period.
Initially, in the “build-up” period, your St. Louis allergy doctors will give you injections one or two times per week. This build-up period usually continues for about six to nine months. Injections can then be spread out– at first, perhaps, to every other week, then every third week, then sometimes just monthly. This build up period can be shortened significantly with rapid desensitization, also known as rush immunotherapy. Usually the patient will begin to notice benefits from injections at about the end of the third vial, sometimes a little earlier and sometimes later. About 80 to 90% of patients who undertake an allergy immunotherapy program will experience benefit. Allergy shots are not appropriate for every patient; consult with our St. Louis allergy clinic to learn if this treatment is available to you.
Patients looking for allergy help in St. Louis should know that allergy immunotherapy is a long-term undertaking, usually 3 to 5 years. If a patient took shots for, say, 6 months and stopped, he would tend to lose any benefit of the program over the ensuing months. On the other hand, most of our St. Louis allergy clinic patients who undertake the full program (3 to 5 years) will enjoy a long-term remission (years) after stopping allergy shots.
Allergy immunotherapy may safely be continued in pregnancy. Please notify your St. Louis allergist if you are pregnant because this may affect your immunotherapy dose or schedule.
St. Louis Allergy Doctor: Risks of Allergy Immunotherapy
As noted above, an allergy shot consists of the allergens to which you are sensitive. Patients who get allergy shots from our St. Louis allergist always face a risk, no matter how many months or years the allergy treatment has been underway. This is why allergy injections must always be administered in a medically-supervised setting like a St. Louis allergy clinic and why we never allow a patient to administer his or her own injections.
Reactions to allergy shots are of two types, local and systemic:
Local reactions consist of redness, swelling, warmth, or itching at the site of the allergy shot (the arm). Generally these reactions are not serious, and should not concern the patient unless they are large (larger than a half-dollar coin) or uncomfortable. Do contact your allergist in St. Louis about the size of local reactions either at your appointment or before your next shot.
Systemic reactions are more serious and, in rare cases, can be life-threatening. Symptoms of a systemic reaction to a St. Louis allergy treatment include itching (other than on the arm where the shot was given), swelling of the lips, eyes, or tongue, tightness in the throat or chest, shortness of breath, dizziness, or loss of consciousness. This is why you must wait in the St. Louis allergy doctor office after the allergy treatment injection, so early symptoms such as itching can be treated and the reaction does not progress. If systemic reactions occur, your allergist will adjust the dose or schedule of immunotherapy to minimize the chance of future reactions.
According to our St. Louis allergist team, risk factors for serious systemic reactions include active asthma or wheezing at the time of an immunotherapy injection. Therefore if your asthma is “acting up” or you are experiencing wheezing, tight chest, or other asthma symptoms, you should wait until you are feeling better before getting an allergy shot. Another risk factor for a more serious reaction to an allergy injection is being on a heart medication known as a beta-blocker or a kind of antidepressant known as an MAO inhibitor. Always let your allergy doctor in St. Louis know about changes in your medications, in particular heart or blood pressure medications.
Allergy Help in St. Louis
Your allergy immunotherapy program can be very effective and risks can be minimized, but it
requires a partnership between you and your allergy clinic in St. Louis to undertake it safely. While immunotherapy can provide long-term allergy help in St. Louis, it is not an appropriate treatment for every patient suffering from allergies. If you are interested in learning more about allergy shots, please contact our St. Louis allergy clinic for a consultation.
Adapted from: https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/treatments/allergy-shots-(immunotherapy)