Allergy Shots (cont.)
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
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
- 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
SOURCES:Last Editorial Review: 2/20/2010 6:35:46 PM
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and
American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. National
Institutes of Health.
Reviewed by Jonathan L Gelfand, MD, on February 20, 2010
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