Immunotherapy, where patients are exposed at low levels to allergens, is an effective way to treat certain allergic disorders and aims to “desensitize” patients to a specific trigger. Most patients see a significant improvement in allergy response after treatment, and some leave immunotherapy allergy treatment cured and require no further medication. Most patients will enjoy long-lasting results from allergen immunotherapy treatment.
Types of Allergen Immunotherapy
Allergy shots inject allergens in small amounts beneath a patient’s skin to begin the process of desensitizing the body to the allergen. Immunotherapy is an ongoing treatment, and in the case of shots, it requires the dose to be increased every three to ten days for six to twelve months until a maintenance dosage is reached. The treatment becomes less intensive once the maintenance dosage is reached, and injections after that point will be administered every two to four weeks. Patients will experience a gradual reduction in symptoms throughout treatment.
Allergy shots are an effective treatment for patients suffering from allergic rhinitis, bronchial asthma, anaphylactic insect stings, and atopic eczema triggered by environmental allergens, and this treatment has been used successfully and safely used for nearly 100 years.
Common allergens used for allergy shots include dust mites, pet dander, mold, and pollens. Side effects are typically mild and may include redness, itching, and swelling of the injection site. Severe anaphylactic reactions are rare. Patients are observed for 30 minutes after injections to monitor for side effects.
Oral immunotherapy, a newer form of immunotherapy treatment, can be used to treat certain environmental allergies, including dust mite, grass pollen, and ragweed pollen, by dissolving very low concentrations of the offending allergen under the tongue (sublingually). Therapy is given daily at home and is limited to one allergen at a time.
Recently, the FDA approved an exciting oral immunotherapy option for those suffering from peanut allergy. While not curative, it may offer patients the ability to tolerate small amounts of peanut, protecting them from severe reactions caused by accidental exposure.