When to Consider Allergy Shots
If allergies send you to bed or medications produce unpleasant side effects, immunotherapy might be for you. This treatment builds up long-term immunity to one or many allergens by continually exposing patients to greater doses of them. Covered by most insurance plans, immunotherapy typically reduces symptoms by 90 percent. That said, it’s also a lot of work. Over three to six months and well before allergy season, patients receive one or two injections a week of specific allergens in increasing concentrations. Then, once or twice a month over the next three years, patients get maintenance shots of the maximum concentration reached during the buildup phase. Some people maintain their improvement indefinitely, but others relapse. Most relapses occur within three years of stopping treatment.
If you’re needle-shy, ask your doctor about sublingual immunotherapy, a method that substitutes under-the-tongue pills or drops for the shots. The dose is higher, but the treatment appears to be safer, and experts say the results compare well with injections.