STATE OF THE ART
TREATMENT AND PREVENTION
Allergy shots (Allergen Immunotherapy)
Allergy shots help your body build its natural resistance to environmental allergens. It is the only treatment currently available that changes the immune system and prevents new allergies and asthma. Research shows allergy shots reduce health care use and costs from prescription medicines, office visits, and hospitalization. Allergy shots are also effective in the treatment of allergic asthma, atopic dermatitis, or eczema when the condition is associated with environmental allergies.
Used since 1911, allergy shots stimulate your immune system to fight allergies safely, effectively, and naturally. Most children and adults can be candidates for allergy shots. Pregnant patients can continue treatment started before pregnancy.
After starting your allergy shots, fewer medicines may be needed over time. Work or school days may no longer be missed. The burden of allergies may be lifted. Allergies may become something you don’t think about any more.
HOW ARE ALLERGY SHOTS GIVEN?
Treatment involves injections of small amounts of purified allergen “extracts” into the skin. The extracts are made from the substances causing your reactions, such as pollens, mold spores, animal dander, dust mites, or insect venom. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved allergy shots for use as injections only.
Allergy shots begin with small doses and increase gradually. This is called the build-up phase. Therapy continues until a maintenance level is achieved, and shot intervals are continued every four to six weeks.
Immunity does not occur immediately. Some patients begin to feel better quickly. Most patients continue to receive monthly injections for three to five years once they reach their maintenance dose.
In some patients, immunity is maintained and treatment can be stopped after several years. For others, treatment may be needed for longer periods of time. Generally, the benefits of allergy shots can last for many years or even a lifetime.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF IMMUNOTHERAPY?
Although rare, serious reactions can occur because treatment involves shots that contain substances to which you are allergic.
The most common problem is a red, itchy bump at the injection site. Sometimes a similar reaction can occur six to twenty-four hours later.
Sometimes there are more severe reactions that may include itching all over the body, chest tightness or wheezing. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) and the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) recommend that allergy shots must be given under supervision where medical staff and medicines are available to handle serious reactions.
WHAT ARE “CLUSTER,” IMMUNOTHERAPY TREATMENTS?
A faster schedule known as “cluster” immunotherapy may be used for some patients. These cluster treatments offer more flexibility and faster results, so you can spend more time with your family. The faster schedule may appeal to you if you cannot commit to frequent build-up phase visits that may take up to five or six months. Cluster immunotherapy is both safe and effective options. It is used to help reach a monthly maintenance dose usually within 8 visits.
Biologics are medications that act by directly changing the behavior of the immune system. FDA identifies biologics as products isolated from a variety of natural sources and may be produced by biotechnology and other cutting-edge technologies. Biological products often represent the cutting-edge of biomedical research, allowing us to offer more effective means to treat challenging allergy or asthma conditions.
At premier allergy, our patients have experienced significant relief from biologic treatments. Often time, biologics are used alongside time-tested treatments like allergy shots to optimize clinical improvements.
If you experience allergic-induced asthma, difficult to control asthma, atopic dermatitis, chronic urticaria, or chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyposis, you may benefit from one of these biologic treatments.
Venom immunotherapy (VIT)
Venom Immunotherapy has been shown to reduce fear and improve patient quality of life above and beyond those who simply carry emergency auto-injectors. VIT is up to 98% effective in preventing allergic reactions to insect stings. Essentially, it’s a series of “allergy shots” that increase your immunity to stings. It is important to remember that this treatment is not a cure. You or your child will still need to avoid insect stings and continue having immediate access to epinephrine autoinjectors. VIT is a proactive treatment. It builds a “protection” that is always with you and makes it easier for epinephrine to work in allergic reactions.
Oral peanut immunotherapy (OIT)
Peanut OIT has recently been approved by FDA for children and adolescents 4-17 years old. It works by exposing the child to a small amount of peanut, so they become less likely to have an allergic reaction if they accidentally eat a peanut product. It is important to remember that this treatment is not a cure. Your child will still be allergic to peanuts and must avoid them and continue having immediate access to epinephrine autoinjectors. The goal of OIT is to help reduce risk and fear of a life-threatening reactions if your child accidentally ingests any amount of peanut, no matter how small. This may improve quality of life by helping your child and your family worry less and feel more comfortable in social situations.