Allergy shots (also called subcutaneous immunotherapy or SCIT) are one of the best treatments available for your allergies and asthma. It is one of the few disease-modifying therapies available in medicine and targets the underlying cause of various allergic conditions. Allergy shots offer the potential of improving asthma control, providing relief from allergy and sinus symptoms, and reducing the need for medicines in the future. In children, allergy shots are particularly helpful as they can reduce the risk of becoming more allergic or developing asthma later in life.
Allergy shots contain all-natural proteins from allergens found in the environment. You are first tested to determine what you are allergic to. Customized allergen extract vials are then produced for you based on these results and are injected underneath the skin.
By giving increasing doses of allergen proteins in the body, your immune system starts to recognize and become tolerant to these substances. Once tolerance is achieved with an allergy shot regimen, you don’t experience allergic inflammatory reactions when exposed to allergens in the environment. Ultimately, this leads to improved symptoms and less reliance on medications. Studies have shown a sustained effect of symptom relief for many years after the completion of a regimen.
Regimens for allergy shots include two phases: the buildup phase and the maintenance phase. Allergy injection buildup is the process of gradual dose increases working up to the target or therapeutic dose. This allows the body time to get used to receiving something it is allergic to. Once the target dose has been achieved, this dose is generally maintained for three to five years. It is during the maintenance phase that the immune system becomes tolerant and shifts from being allergic to becoming nonallergic. Allergy shots are not a cure for allergies, but act on the immune system to prevent the allergic response from even starting as opposed to just treating symptoms once they occur. Buildup and maintenance can be customized to meet your individual needs.
Most reactions to shots are localized and appear as redness or swelling at the injection site. This typically occurs within a couple hours of the injection and clears up soon afterwards. Systemic reactions are much less common and can range in severity. Most reactions are mild and include symptoms such as itching, sneezing, congestion or hives. Rarely, a more serious systemic reaction (anaphylaxis) can occur, which may lead to coughing, wheezing, swelling of the throat or dizziness. Most systemic reactions occur within the first 30 minutes of the injection, which is why it is important that injections are only administered in a medical facility where patients can be observed during this time.