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Quick GuideAllergy Pictures Slideshow: What Happens in a Nasal Allergy Attack
Are Allergy Shots Effective for All Allergies?
The effectiveness of immunotherapy varies depending on the severity of a person's allergies and the number of substances to which the person is allergic. In general, however, immunotherapy is effective for allergies to stinging insects, a variety of pollens and dust mites, as well as for allergic asthma. It is also effective for molds and pet dander. Immunotherapy is not proven to be effective for hives or food allergies.
When Should I Call My Doctor?
After receiving your allergy shot, call your doctor and go to the nearest emergency room if you develop shortness of breath, tight throat, or any other symptoms of concern.
Beyond Allergy Shots: New Approaches to Immunotherapy
In addition to the traditional allergy shots, several new immunotherapy procedures have been proposed, including:
- Rush immunotherapy: This approach involves a more rapid, or rushed, build-up to the maintenance dose of extract. During the initial phase of treatment, increasing doses of allergen are given every few hours rather than every few days or weeks. There is a greater risk of a body-wide reaction with this approach, so rush immunotherapy generally is done in a hospital under close medical supervision. In some cases, pre-treatment with medications can reduce the risk of an allergic reaction during rush immunotherapy.
- Oral immunotherapy: Oral, or sublingual-swallow, immunotherapy works in the same way as allergy shots by giving increasing doses of allergen to gradually build up a person's tolerance. The difference with oral immunotherapy is the allergen extract is given as drops, usually placed under the tongue and then swallowed, rather than through injections. This type of immunotherapy has been shown to be helpful in a select patient population. However, formulations for sublingual-swallow use are not available in the United States, nor has sublingual administration received approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
- Intranasal immunotherapy: Controlled, well-designed studies have shown intranasal administration of grass, birch tree, and house dust mite allergen extracts was effective at reducing nasal symptoms of rhinitis. Local irritation to the nasal mucosa was the main side effect. However, the effect of nasal administration may not have the longer lasting benefits that have been associated with traditional immunotherapy. Currently, intranasal immunotherapy is not used in the United States.
WebMD Medical Reference
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. National Institutes of Health.
Reviewed by Jonathan L Gelfand, MD, on February 20, 2010