You might be familiar with the itching, sneezing, congestion, and other delightful symptoms (hello, watery eyes) that start affecting many people every spring. You aren’t alone–allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States, with more than 50 million people suffering from them.
Avoidance is the best defense for most allergies, but that is easier said than done. It is often impossible to avoid your allergens, but luckily allergy shots can relieve allergy symptoms for most inhalant allergies and stinging insect allergies.
Children, adolescents, teens, and adults can all receive allergy shots from an experienced allergist. We spoke with Peter Capucilli, MD, to learn more about allergy shots and who can benefit from them.
Allergy shots are a type of immunotherapy especially aimed at eliminating or reducing your allergy symptoms. Immunotherapy is a type of treatment that trains your immune system to behave differently than it normally would. In this case, it teaches your immune system not to react to allergens.
Dr. Capucilli explained that our AIR (Allergy, Immunology, and Rheumatology) team has, “experience and training in both pediatrics and adult allergy and immunology,” allowing us to offer the most comprehensive care in the region.
If you and your allergist have tried avoidance, which is “talking about and figuring out when your triggers will be a problem and then coming up with specific ways to combat that,” according to Dr. Capucilli, then allergy shots may be the next treatment option. Allergy shots use tiny doses of your specific trigger allergen to desensitize your immune system’s response. By exposing your body to small amounts of an allergy regularly, you can develop an immunity over time.
The kind of allergy shot you get during your immunotherapy appointments depends on what you’re allergic to. You will receive allergy testing before you start allergy shots to correctly diagnose what allergens trigger your symptoms.
Allergy shots are excellent options for both indoor and outdoor allergies. Common allergens like animal dander, dust mites, mold spores, pollen, and stinging insects can all be treated with shots.
When you begin your immunotherapy, you’ll visit your allergist once or twice weekly for the “build-up phase.” We will build up the amount of the allergen in your system until we reach a “maintenance dose,” which is the maximum dose for your allergens that is considered optimal for your body.
Once you’ve reached your maintenance dose, your visits to your allergist’s office will decrease. Plan on your maintenance phase lasting three to five years for the best, most thorough long-term relief of your allergy symptoms.
Allergy shots can offer allergy sufferers quite a few benefits. For many, they provide an effective alternative to allergy medication. Sometimes, prolonged use of over-the-counter medications can lead to intolerance, one which allergy shots overcome.
For some, oral medications are hard to stomach. Maybe it’s the taste, the side effects, or the act of swallowing a pill–they just cannot do it. Nasal sprays work well, but may also not be the best option for all patients. Allergy shots give these people a chance to reap the benefits of symptom relief without having to take oral medication.
If you respond well to your immunotherapy treatment, it is likely that they will significantly improve your allergy symptoms. Over time, allergy shots treat the underlying cause of allergies, not just treating the symptoms they cause.
Allergy shots cannot treat every single type of allergy. They excel at preventing symptoms and treating the underlying cause of pet dander, dust, pollen, and household pollutants, but they cannot treat food allergies. Food allergies use a different type of treatment–oral food challenges.
Allergy shots are a time-consuming commitment. You must follow a strict injection schedule because missing even one treatment can delay your allergy relief. If you are a busy person, allergy shots may not fit into your packed schedule!
Dr. Capucilli added that “Your allergist will also discuss any risks associated with starting allergy shots during your comprehensive office visit.”
An allergist will be the one who administers your shots, and they should be involved in deciding if you’re a good candidate for immunotherapy. But, allergy shots should help you if you have certain allergies, have tried other treatments, and are okay with needles and the time commitment.
Unfortunately, allergy shots are not recommended if you are allergic to foods, latex, or certain drugs.
Studies have shown that allergy shots are nearly 90% effective in helping people overcome their allergies. While they aren’t the perfect fit for everyone, your Allergy Center provider will help you determine if allergy shots are right for you.
If allergies are slowing you down, schedule a consultation with our compassionate, experienced AIR providers today. With convenient locations throughout the Rochester and Finger Lakes regions, we offer the care you need, close to home.Meet Our Team
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