Some people benefit from immunotherapy, or allergy shots, for their specific reactions if over-the-counter treatment isn't enough. Patients receiving immunotherapy can often gradually reduce or discontinue use of other allergy medications. This process can take months or years to become fully effective; most patients receive immunotherapy for three to five years.
At first, patients receive shots in the upper arm once or twice a week, but the time between and strength of doses both increase over time. During allergy season, patients gradually decrease the time between injections until they receive injections weekly.
A nurse prepares to administer allergy shots. The first two injections are performed while an allergist is in the office, and there will be a physician in the office during all other injections. After each injection, patients are asked to wait 30 minutes in the observation/waiting area to make sure there are no adverse reactions.
Adverse reactions to allergy shots are rare. Common minor reactions can include redness, itching, swelling or bruising at the injection site. More serious reactions can include severe itching, rash, hives, swelling of the entire upper arm, chest tightness, wheezing, fainting, nausea and increased heart rate.
For this reason, it's important for immunotherapy patients to bring an antihistamine (like Benadryl) with them to their injection appointments to take if any of these symptoms occur after leaving the office. Patients with insect sting allergies should always carry their epinephrine kit. Additionally, pregnant patients and patients taking beta-blockers or ACE inhibitors should notify their physician before receiving treatment.
If you are sick the day of your appointment, notify the office, as your dose may need to be skipped or reduced.
Since serums are mixed for your individual needs, make sure to check with your insurance provider and our business office about coverage, as you will be responsible for the charge once the serum has been prepared.
Immunotherapy patients should return to see their allergists every six to 12 months to monitor progress.