Once an allergy is diagnosed, the best treatment is to avoid contact with the trigger, whether that be pollen, certain foods, animal dander or something else. That's not always easy. Our allergists will tailor a treatment plan that's right for you based on your symptoms. This may include:
Allergy shots, a type of immunotherapy, are used to desensitize your body to specific seasonal and other allergens, and improve your quality of life. This treatment method is effective if your body has a reaction to certain allergens, including:
- Dust mites
- Grass or tree pollen
- Pet dander
- Ragweed pollen
- Stinging insect venoms (produced by wasps, honeybees and hornets)
Each allergy shot contains a small amount of the allergen that affects you. This encourages a response from your immune system to help it build up a tolerance. This treatment is not recommended for food allergies.
Do I need allergy shots?
The first step toward understanding the severity of your allergy is a skin test. Your allergist will recommend treatments based on the result, including what medications to take and what activities to avoid. If these measures don’t help with your symptoms, your allergist may recommend allergy shots.
What should I expect during my allergy shot appointment?
Our team will create a vaccine specific to your skin test results and inject it under your skin, usually in the upper arm. You will need to stay at your allergist’s office for about 30 minutes after the shot to monitor any side effects, which may include itchy eyes, runny nose, or redness or irritation around the injection site.
How often do I need to get an allergy shot?
Through the build-up phase, which can last several months, you will have to visit your allergist every week. The dose of each allergy shot increases steadily over this period so that your body can begin to build up a resistance to the allergen. Your symptoms may decrease during this phase. Once you reach an effective dose, you may only need an allergy treatment once per month. You will likely need an allergy shot monthly for three to five years during the maintenance phase. Some patients may require shots longer to manage their symptoms.
Drug desensitization is performed when a patient has an allergy to specific drugs required to treat infections or other medical conditions where there are no other alternatives available. During drug desensitization, the drug is given in very small amounts and the dose is increased over three to four hours. The procedure does contain the risk of anaphylaxis, so it needs to be performed in a setting with continuous observation. Certain drugs such as aspirin may require desensitization over two days.
Desensitization is a temporary state of tolerance to the drug, and tolerance is only maintained as long as someone is taking the drug. If the drug is stopped and repeated courses of the drug are required, the procedure must be repeated.
Insect venom desensitization is a proven treatment for patients who experience anaphylaxis from stinging insects such as bees, wasps, hornets and fire ants.
Over the course of several months, small, gradually increasing amounts of purified insect venom are injected under the skin. It is recommended that venom shots be continued for at least three to five years, but in some cases this course is extended.
Certain blood pressure medications should be stopped before considering venom shots.
If your seasonal allergies include ragweed pollen, our allergists offer an immunotherapy tablet. This tablet, which is taken once a day and dissolves under the tongue, offers an alternative to allergy injections. Although ragweed pollen season typically does not begin until around August, this new seasonal allergy treatment is administered early, at least 12 weeks before the expected onset of pollen season, and continues throughout the season.
Xolair injections for allergic asthma
Xolair®, or omalizumab, is a special treatment for allergic asthma. You must qualify for Xolair with certain blood and/or skin tests to be eligible, and you must have failed other standard treatments for asthma.
During Xolair treatment, one or two injections are given under the skin every two or every four weeks.
Xolair injections contain a risk of anaphylaxis, so after the first treatment you will be required to wait in your doctor’s office for two hours, and then at least 30 minutes for every treatment thereafter. Because there also is risk of delayed anaphylaxis, you will be required to carry injectable epinephrine.