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Allergy Shots: Are They Right For You?

If you suffer from allergies, it’s likely you have considered various forms of treatment. One key treatment approach is allergy shots or immunotherapy, a long-term treatment consisting of regular doses of the specific allergy vaccine over an extended period of time that works by decreasing one’s sensitivity to the specific allergen, resulting in a lessening of symptoms over time. Immunotherapy is used to treat allergic rhinitis resulting from seasonal allergies, allergic asthma, conjunctivitis (eye allergy), or pet or stinging insect allergy – all types of allergies except food allergies.

Although immunotherapy is an excellent way to lessen bothersome allergy symptoms, you must be willing to make the commitment. If you are, Allergy & Asthma Specialists is the Philadelphia area’s most trusted source for allergy treatment, including immunotherapy and state-of-the-art allergy skin testing to identify your allergy triggers.

Research shows that allergy shots, which have been used since 1911, are often quite successful in reducing allergy symptoms over time, but is it right for you?

Severity of symptoms

If your allergy symptoms are generally kept under control with medication, you probably don’t need immunotherapy. If your symptoms are constant and affect your daily functioning, however, then you need to take a step further.

According to Dr. Mark Posner, M.D., Physician Partner at Allergy & Asthma Specialists, “The morbidity rates of allergic rhinitis can actually be as high as having a heart condition. Immunotherapy has shown to dramatically improve quality of life.”

Your use of allergy medication

There are many common over-the-counter medications that typically are very effective. However, if they’re not helping reduce your symptoms as you wish, then immunotherapy is an excellent choice. Also, since allergy shots work to build your body’s resistance to allergens over time, they, many times, eliminate the need for continued use of medication.

“It’s not appropriate anymore to think of allergy shots as a last resort,” Dr. Posner says. “Some people don’t want to take medication for the rest of their life, and allergy shots can dramatically improve your quality of life.”

Time available for treatment

It’s important to know upfront that allergy shots require time and commitment. For approximately the first three to six months, you must receive injections once to twice a week. Once the effective allergen dose is received, treatments are no longer needed as often, with a longer period of time between shots. Therefore, you’ll need the availability to schedule regular appointments, which can sometimes be difficult to manage with work and/or family obligations.

According to Dr. Posner, an alternative to typical allergy shots is sublingual immunotherapy, where drops are placed under the tongue. This is actually more convenient because it can be done at home. It’s often better for children as well, since no shots are involved.

Cost of treatment and visits

Without insurance, allergy shots can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000 for the first year during the initial build-up phase. During the maintenance phase when injections are not needed as often, the yearly cost does drop. With insurance, there is still the cost of copays, which is approximately $10 to $40 per visit. This can add up to an average of $800 for the first year and about $170 to $300 in copays for the next two to four years.

Possible risks and side effects

Redness and swelling at the site of the injection are common side effects that can occur immediately or several hours after receiving treatment. Other possible side effects include typical allergy symptoms, such as sneezing, nasal congestion, or hives. A severe anaphylactic reaction is rare but possible – signs of which include wheezing, tightness in the chest, and swelling of the throat – within thirty minutes of receiving an allergy injection. Dr. Posner explains this is why doctors recommend waiting in the office up to a half hour after shots are given.

Allergy shots have shown to be very effective in lessening allergy symptoms over time – and also in preventing the onset of new allergies. In children, immunotherapy can be successful in preventing allergic disease from developing into asthma. Many people also report never having a recurrence of allergy symptoms after receiving treatment.

Allergy shots can be quite effective for many people, but is not something to dive into without knowing all the facts. Only you and your doctor can determine the proper course of action to help you feel your very best.

Fellowship-trained, board certified allergists/immunologists at Allergy & Asthma Specialists provide comprehensive allergy and asthma diagnostics and state-of-the-art treatment at offices in Center City Philadelphia, Blue Bell, King of Prussia, Jenkintown, Doylestown, Lansdale, Pottstown, and Collegeville, PA. Schedule today online at www.AllergyandAsthmaWellness.com or call 1-800-86COUGH, select option 2.