Is Immunotherapy Right for You? Answer These Questions to Find Out
For thousands of Americans, there is no relief from allergy season because for them, “allergy season” lasts throughout the entire year. If you’re one of these Americans and you’re tired of popping allergy pills year-round (and repeated visits to the ear, nose and throat doctor to combat infections), you may be a candidate for immunotherapy.
WHAT IS IMMUNOTHERAPY?
Immunotherapy has proven to be an effective, long-term treatment for allergies and is commonly called “allergy shots.” It works by determining the source of the allergy, and then gradually exposing the body to the allergen. This allows the body to build up a natural resistance that continues long after treatment stops. This is similar to the manner that a vaccine works. For many patients, immunotherapy eliminates the need to take medicine year round.
THE TWO PHASES OF IMMUNOTHERAPY
This begins by administering injections of the allergen(s) one or two times a week, depending upon how each individual patient reacts to the shots. In general, this phase can last from three to six months in order to reach the most effective dosage.
Once the effective dose is reached, patients will continue to receive a maintenance dosage to help your immune system adjust to the allergens. This dosage will vary from patient to patient, and they are typically given weekly.
ARE YOU A CANDIDATE FOR ALLERGY SHOTS?
Only your ear, nose and throat doctor can determine if immunotherapy is right for you. Following is a list of questions you should consider when discussing this type of treatment with your physician. Print this list, answer the questions, and bring them with you at your next visit to the otolaryngologist.
- How long have you had allergy symptoms?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being almost unbearable, how would you rate the severity of your allergy symptoms?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how well does your medication treat your allergy symptoms?
- Do you want to avoid long-term medication use?
- Have you had difficulties with any allergy medications in the past?
- Do you have any other chronic medical conditions (such as heart disease)?
- Immunotherapy can be a time-consuming process, with visits scheduled over the course of several months. Are you able to make the time commitment necessary for this treatment?
Remember, immunotherapy should only be administered in a facility with heath care professionals who can assist if a patient has an adverse reaction to an allergy shots. Serious reactions to allergy shots are rare, but usually develop within 30 minutes after a shot. For this reason, your doctor will suggest you wait in the office for 30 minutes after receiving the shot.
To be evaluated for immunotherapy treatment, speak with your ear, nose and throat physician.