What is an Allergy?
An allergy is an abnormal reaction by a person's immune system against a normally harmless substance. A person without allergies would have no reaction to this substance, but when a person who is allergic encounters the trigger, the body reacts by releasing chemicals which cause allergy symptoms.
What is Happening During an Allergic Reaction?
During an allergic process, the substance responsible for causing the allergy (the allergen) binds to allergic antibodies present on allergic cells. These cells then release chemicals such as histamine, resulting in allergic symptoms.
Should I get tested for Allergies? The answer could be yes is one or more of these statement are true:
If your symptoms are persistent, severe, or repetitive
If your symptoms are not responsive to medications
If you take medications for your symptoms long-term
Everyone's allergies are different, but knowing what triggers yours will help you and your Doctor determine your best treatment options.
Should I consider Immunotherapy to resolve my allergies?
There are many reasons to consider Immunotherapy (or IT). The Physician and the Allergy Technician will discuss all of the following with each individual Patient:
Medicines don't work: Many patients seek allergy shots because they still have symptoms despite having tried numerous allergy medications, with little to no relief of their symptoms. Sometimes allergy shots are the only therapy left for these patients.
Go for the cure: Other patients like the idea of a “cure”, and opt for allergy shots for that reason. Remember, immunotherapy is the only treatment for allergies that fixes the underlying problem of the immune system, much like a vaccine.
Don't like medicines: Some patients experience severe side effects from medications, or don’t like taking medications on a daily basis – the idea of short term scheduled injections is a better option for them.
Cost of medicines: Medications can be expensive, and since allergy symptoms typically return soon after medications are stopped, patients may require medications for many, many years. Allergy shots can alleviate much of the need for medications and can be a significant cost savings measure in the long run.
What exactly is Immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy offers the only form of allergic treatment that actually changes the way the body deals with allergies. Medications, both over-the-counter and prescription can only temporarily diminish allergy symptoms. Quite often, there are also mild side effects in using certain medications. Alternatively, immunotherapy can actually reduce the immune system's response to allergic triggers over time.
Immunotherapy involves administering what a person is allergic to in one of three forms: an injection (shot), oral drops or creamsAs a result, the immune system reacts in a non-allergic way to allergic triggers, resulting in a decrease in allergic symptoms over time. Individual results will vary, but patients that choose immunotherapy need fewer medications to treat their allergies -- some will need none.
How long has Immunotherapy been around? Is it an experimental therapy?
No. Immunotherapy in it's original form of allergy shots have been given for nearly 100 years and are FDA approved therapies. Newer therapies include drops and creams. Numerous well-designed medical studies show the efficacy of Immunotherapy. Further proof of the effectiveness of IT is that most insurance covers the testing and treatment of allergies.
How does Immunotherapy work?
Unlike allergy medicines, which act only to “cover up” allergic symptoms or prevent them temporarily, immunotherapy (injections, drops or cream) fix the underlying problem of allergies. This occurs because the body treats the introduced allergen(s) much like a vaccine, resulting in the production of infection-fighting antibodies against the pollen, dust, mold or pet dander. The body then stops producing as much allergic antibodies against the triggers, and therefore won’t have as much, or any, allergic response when exposed to the allergens. These changes can last for many years even after stopping Immunotherapy. Recent studies show that allergy shots can also prevent people from developing new allergies.
What are the risks of immunotherapy?
The risks of immunotherapy consist of the possibility of experiencing an allergic reaction to the allergens being introduced in to your system. Most allergic reactions consist of mild to moderate swelling and itching.. These reactions occur frequently, but rarely require any change in treatment. A large swelling may require an adjustment of the immunotherapy dosage or a change in the frequency.
All possible risks will be discussed during allergy testing and throughout the course of the chosen immunotherapy treatment with each Patient.
Will my Insurance cover allergy testing and immunotherapy?
Most insurances will cover allergy testing and immunotherapy, however plans do vary. Once a patient indicates they are interested in testing, the very next step an Allergy Technician will take is Insurance Verification. Coverage will be discussed before any testing or treatment is initiated.
Once I am diagnosed with Allergies, what should I consider before starting Immunotherapy?
Length of allergy season and severity of symptoms
How well medications and avoiding allergens control allergy symptoms
Desire to avoid long-term medication use
Time Commitment: Immunotherapy will require significant time during the build-up phase, but with reduced time needed during the maintenance phase
Costs may vary depending on region and insurance coverage. Yet, immunotherapy can be a cost-effective approach to managing allergy symptoms.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Allergy diagnosis, treatment options and any other related symptoms should be discussed directly with your physician.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology