Have you ever heard someone say, “Oh, it’s just allergies” and wished you could be so casual about allergies? Some people may get a runny nose or itchy eyes from allergies, but others have life-threatening or debilitating reactions.
At Apex Medical Center, our providers understand that sometimes allergies decrease the quality of your life to an unbearable degree. Happily, we have a treatment option that often works for people who have been unable to find relief through other approaches.
Often, allergy treatments address your symptoms. Immunotherapy is different; it’s a method of teaching your body to tolerate substances that cause your allergic reactions. It doesn’t work for all allergens. The process involves very deliberately exposing your immune system to incrementally larger doses of allergens.
Over time, your immune system becomes less sensitive to the substances you’re allergic to, which lessens your symptoms when you’re exposed to it. It also usually reduces the amount of inflammation you experience.
Shots and tablets
Many people associate immunotherapy with allergy shots, and often injections, called subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT), are the best way to deliver the therapy. Usually, you need to get shots regularly for three to five years for the most effective treatment. The good thing about SCIT is that it prevents the development of new allergies and asthma.
You may also get immunotherapy through tablets, which is called sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT). One of the main differences between SCIT and SLIT is that tablets can only treat one type of allergen. If you’re especially allergic to ragweed, grass pollen, or dust mites but not much else, SLIT may be the right treatment approach for you.
The right patient
Immunotherapy is not the best way to treat everyone who has allergies. It requires a significant time commitment and, usually, a willingness to get injections regularly for years. It can be a good treatment for some people who:
- Can’t control their symptoms with medication
- Can’t avoid allergens easily
- Take other medications that interact with allergy medication
- Want to avoid or reduce long term use of allergy medication
- Are allergic to insect stings
However, if you have food allergies, or chronic hives, immunotherapy probably isn’t the most appropriate treatment. Your specific situation and allergens are the most important consideration in deciding if immunotherapy is the best treatment for you.
How it works
Once you’ve discussed the option with your provider and had tests to determine exactly what you’re allergic to, and decided that immunotherapy is right for you, you’ll most likely begin the series of shots. The injection is usually given in your upper arm and may be given one to three times per week.
There are two phases of the treatment, the build-up phase, which takes anywhere from three to six months, and the maintenance phase which can last up to five years or more, depending on your situation. Usually, maintenance injections are administered about once a month.
Your symptoms, unfortunately, don’t suddenly go away. It’s a gradual process, though you may begin to notice a difference during the maintenance phase. You should certainly experience noticeable improvements within a year.
If you’d like to learn more about immunotherapy and discuss it as a potential option for your allergies, schedule an appointment at one of our three locations to talk to an expert. You can schedule at the location of your choice online or by phone.