Limiting your exposure to allergens is your best defense against them. However, depending on the type of allergy you have, completely avoiding the offending allergens may not be feasible. For example, while you can simply choose not to eat certain foods or take certain medications, you have no control over how much pollen is in the air. But even with airborne allergens, it is possible to reduce your exposure by using air conditioning and avoiding outdoor activity during peak season for your particular allergen. Reducing dust in the home is more challenging, but for those who suffer from severe dust mite allergies, there are a number of techniques that can prove useful. For a discussion of these and other tips on protecting yourself against allergens, visit one of the Web sites listed below or browse information from our Health Encyclopedia.
The symptoms of allergic rhinitis can often be controlled with medications. Effective prescription medications for allergic rhinitis include antihistamines and nasal sprays, which can be used alone or in combination. Many effective antihistamines and decongestants are also available without a prescription.
What Are “Allergy Shots”?
“Allergy shots” is the phrase commonly used for allergen immunotherapy treatment, or allergy immunotherapy. Allergen immunotherapy is an effective desensitization program that can increase your immunity to substances called allergens, which trigger your symptoms.
Allergen immunotherapy involves administering gradually increasing amounts of an allergen to a patient over several months. The injections are first given on a weekly or biweekly basis; eventually, when the maintenance level is reached, injections are given on a monthly basis. This process reduces symptoms that are otherwise triggered by allergen exposure. Immunotherapy treatment is the closest thing to a “cure” for allergic symptoms.
How Do Allergy Shots Work?
Allergen immunotherapy works like a vaccination. Through your body’s exposure to small, injected amounts of a particular allergen in gradually increasing doses, your body builds up immunity to the allergen(s) to which you are allergic. This means that when you encounter these allergens in the future, you will have a reduced allergic response and fewer symptoms.
Allergy injections are considered when
- Allergy symptoms are moderate to severe;
- Symptoms occur throughout most of the year;
- Symptoms do not respond adequately to medications; and
- Symptoms are triggered by allergens not easily avoided, such as pollens or house dust mites.
Allergen immunotherapy is also used to treat some patients who have asthma and stinging insect allergies.
Your Lahey allergist/immunologist can provide you with more information on allergen immunotherapy, or “allergy shots.”
Helpful Links – Allergy and Immunology