Millions of Americans deal with allergies and the resulting symptoms regularly, combatting various uncomfortable and debilitating symptoms. While various treatments are available to address these symptoms, most focus on the temporary symptom instead of the persisting allergy. This is where allergy immunotherapy comes in.
Allergy shots focus on the allergy itself, employing trace amounts of an allergen to train your body to become less reactive to it. In this article, we delve into allergy shots, how they work, and the benefits they can offer.
Before we unravel how allergy shots work, we need to understand the basics of an allergy. Simply put, an allergy is a reaction in your body to a foreign substance. This foreign substance is called an allergen and can be various things, including bee venom, pollen, pasture grasses, or pet dander.
Suppose you have an allergy to pet dander. When your body comes into contact with the allergen, either through inhaling it or getting it on your skin, the antibodies your body produces will trigger a reaction. These antibodies, or blood proteins that counteract a specific antigen communicate with specific cells in your body that release chemicals, triggering the reaction.
The symptoms you experience can range in severity. Some might be as minor as a runny nose or itchy eyes, while others could be as severe as difficulty breathing or anaphylaxis, an emergent and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction.
What is an Allergy Shot?
Allergy shots are injections containing trace amounts of an allergen. This is a treatment called subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT), a type of allergy immunotherapy (AIT). Subcutaneous immunotherapy is the most common type of AIT and has proven highly effective for decades through clinical trials and studies.
Generally, you’ll receive one or more shots each week, spaced out according to your allergist or doctor’s instructions. You’ll need to visit your doctor or allergist for your injection, as many providers require patients to remain in the office so they can monitor for an adverse reaction, although these are rare.
Other Types of Allergy Immunotherapy
SCIT is one of two common types of allergy immunotherapy. The other is called sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) and involves tablets or drops administered under the tongue. Unlike SCIT, SLIT doesn’t involve any injections. Instead, the allergen is inside the tablets or drops that go underneath your tongue.
Both types serve the same purpose, although SLIT is more commonly used for children and needle-shy individuals.
How Do Allergy Shots Work?
The workings of allergy shots can be complex, but we’ll keep it simple. In essence, the shot does its job by administering a small dose of the allergen underneath your skin. This exposure to the allergen helps “train” your body to become less reactive to a specific allergen by reducing the production of the “blocking” antibodies that cause the reaction.
The amount of the allergen in each injection incrementally increases over time, slowly exposing you to higher amounts in each dose. As your treatment progresses, this exposure helps minimize your body’s immune response when exposed to the allergen.
The results don’t appear overnight. Instead, this treatment requires a long-term time commitment, with the first signs of progress appearing in the first year. The best results typically show themselves within the second and third years.
How an Allergy Shot Can Help
Allergy shots can make a world of difference for those combatting pesky allergies. They offer an array of benefits, with the spotlight perks including the reduction of allergy symptoms and the long-term management of allergies.
With a long-term commitment to your treatment plan, you may be able to enjoy places and experiences that previously triggered allergic symptoms, preventing you from enjoying them to the fullest. For example, maybe you enjoy taking long walks through the forests and fields, but your allergy to a particular pasture grass prevents you from doing so. As your treatment progresses, you might be able to enjoy your walks without allergic discomfort.
Of course, these benefits are only the tip of the iceberg. In addition to them, AIT can help prevent the development of new allergies, making it a common tool used in children’s health for addressing current and potential allergies.
Furthermore, allergy shots can improve your overall quality of life by minimizing discomfort in everyday life. Since it’s nearly impossible to control every potential exposure in public spaces, this perk can be one of the best in the bunch.
Allergy shots are a powerful tool for managing allergies, offering long-term relief, and preventing the development of new allergies. By exposing your body to small amounts of an allergen, they help your body become less reactive, allowing you to find relief from the pesky allergies that plague you.
While the treatment requires a long-term time commitment, the benefits it offers can be life-changing, making it a worthwhile consideration. If you’re considering AIT for your allergies, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider first. Your doctor can help you make an informed decision and select the option that best suits your needs.