When Are Allergy Shots the Best Option?

Feb 07, 2023
When Are Allergy Shots the Best Option?
You’ve had it with sneezing, wheezing, and avoiding the outdoors on the most beautiful days of spring, summer, and fall just to avoid pollen. You’re sick of taking medications just to enjoy your pet’s company. Is it time for allergy shots instead?

An allergy is an overly aggressive immune response to a benign substance. Allergies cause a range of symptoms from the unpleasant to the potentially life-threatening. 

Every year in the United States, more than 50 million women, men, and children have some sort of allergic episode. They’re the most common health issue that affects children. You could have or develop an allergy to almost anything, including:

  • Pollen
  • Ragweed
  • Certain foods
  • Pet dander
  • Metals
  • Drugs
  • Insect bites

If you have a severe reaction to food or an insect bite, you could enter a life-threatening state called anaphylaxis, which causes your windpipe to swell, making it difficult or impossible to breathe. Potentially lethal reactions to insect stings occur in up to 0.8% of children and approximately 3% of adults. About 90-100 people die each year from insect-sting anaphylaxis. 

Lakshmi Reddy, MD, an experienced and caring allergy specialist, diagnoses and treats allergies at the Allergy and Asthma Institute in North Atlanta, Georgia. If you have an allergy, you may benefit from one of the newest forms of therapy: allergy shots, also known as immunotherapy. 

Allergy shots aren’t a quick fix. Instead, they train your body to tolerate an allergen by injecting minute amounts of the substance over the course of a year or so, gradually raising the dose. 

Eventually, you stop reacting to the substance at all. An allergy shot, in other words, ends your allergy, or at least drastically reduces the severity of symptoms. Allergy shots can also prevent your allergies from developing into allergic rhinitis or asthma.

Are allergy shots the best choice to keep you or your child comfortable and safe? This brief Q&A helps you decide.

What kinds of allergies do you have?

If you have a food allergy, your best recourse is to avoid that food. We can test you for food allergies so that you know which items to cut from your diet. As of now, no allergy shots exist for foods.

However, if you have other types of allergies, you may benefit from allergy shots. Examples include:

  • Pollen
  • Ragweed
  • Mold spores
  • Dust mites
  • Insect venom
  • Cockroaches
  • Animal dander

We first test your reaction to different allergens to determine which substances trigger an immune response before beginning immunotherapy.

Are your allergies well-controlled by medications?

If your allergies are already well-controlled by medications, you might not want to have allergy shots. Unlike medications, which you can take at will, you must commit to a schedule for allergy shots. The treatment has two phases:

1. Build-up phase

During this phase, we inject you with gradually increasing amounts of allergens 1-2 times a week for anywhere from about 3-6 months. You can’t miss a shot.

2. Maintenance phase

Once you can tolerate the allergen without a response, you enter the maintenance phase. We usually keep you at the last dose that we gave you in the build-up phase. You don’t have to come in as often as you did before.

Even during the build-up phase, you may notice a decrease in symptoms. However, it can take a year or more in the maintenance phase to really notice a difference. 

Do you want to avoid long-term medication use?

Even if your allergies are well-controlled with your current medications, you may not want to have to take them for the rest of your life. In that case, if you’re committed and have the resources, allergy shots can help you become drug-free. 

Are you at risk for anaphylaxis?

If you have a severe insect-sting allergy, you may want to strongly consider allergy shots. Otherwise, you may have to carry an epinephrine pen wherever you go to stop anaphylaxis from progressing if you get stung. Allergy shots free you up to live without the intense fear of being stung by bees, wasps, and other insects. 

Are you or your child healthy?

We normally don’t recommend allergy shots for children under five years old. All children over five and adults of all ages, especially elderly adults, must be in good health and able to commit to the program.

In addition, some medications aren’t compatible with immunotherapy. During your consultation, we take a complete medical history, including any medications you currently use.

Find out if allergy shots are the best option for you or your child. Contact us today by phoning our helpful team at 678-615-7878. Or, at your convenience, book an appointment online.