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Allergen Immunotherapy (Allergy Shots)

Immunotherapy is a method of allergy treatment that involves introducing small amounts of allergen to your body and then gradually building up doses over a period of time until you develop an immunity.

There are two types of immunotherapy treatments: subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT), also known as allergy shots, and sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT), or allergy drops.

Individuals with allergy symptoms that do not respond to medical treatment are prime candidates for immunotherapy through our Allergy Department. Once the allergen trigger has been identified, an extract of that substance is prepared. The delivery method depends on which type of immunotherapy treatment you are receiving.

What Are Allergy Shots?

Photo of a doctor giving a patient an injection in their upper armIf you opt for allergy shots, you are given small injections in the upper arm once or twice a week until a maintenance dose is reached. The frequency is gradually reduced over a period of several months, until you are receiving shots about once a month. It takes three to five years for your body to build up a tolerance to the allergen, so treatment is a long-term commitment.

What Is Sublingual Immunotherapy?

Sublingual immunotherapy works on the same principle, but instead of allergy shots, you are given drops that you place under your tongue for several minutes and then swallow. This is usually done on a daily basis and, like allergy shots, results take anywhere from three to five years.

Only some forms of sublingual immunotherapy are currently FDA-approved, but this treatment has several advantages over allergy shots, namely the ability to self-administer at home and a lower risk of side effects and allergic reactions.

Is Immunotherapy Safe?

Both forms of immunotherapy are considered safe and effective long-term treatments for a number of allergies. Immunotherapy is most effective for those allergic to pollen, mold, dust mites, animal dander and insect venom. It will not work for food or drug allergies.

Side effects and complications are rare. Those receiving allergy shots might notice a little redness, swelling and tenderness at the injection site. Maintaining a consistent injection schedule helps to reduce the odds of serious reactions.

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