Every year, more than 50 million Americans of all ages experience allergies, making it the sixth most common chronic health problem in the United States. If you’re a long-time sufferer, you know that your itchy eyes, runny nose, hives, and rashes are due to your immune system mistaking a benign substance (an allergen) as a threat that needs to be eliminated.
As a result, your immune system overreacts, causing a series of chemical reactions that produce antibodies and histamines to do battle with the allergen. These natural chemicals are the root cause of your allergy symptoms.
But what if you could teach your immune system that pollen, dust, pet dander, or other allergens aren’t a threat? Here at Regional Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology Center in Kingsport and Johnson City, Tennessee, our providers do just that with immunotherapy, aka allergy shots.
You might already know that immunotherapy involves a long series of regular injections. But how these injections work might not be clear.
Much like a vaccine, immunotherapy introduces a small amount of the allergen that stimulates your allergic response into your system. These tiny doses desensitize your immune system, teaching your body that the allergen isn’t a deadly threat. Your symptoms should subside over time, and eventually, you respond more like someone who doesn’t have allergies when you come into contact with pollen, pet dander, or insect stings.
For example, someone without allergies might still sneeze to clear their sinuses of dust or get a small red bump or mild swelling after a bee sting. However, if you have unmanaged allergies, your allergic reaction could become a life-threatening emergency.
How to know if immunotherapy is right for you
Immunotherapy isn’t the right treatment for everyone. Our team here at Regional Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology Center provides a thorough evaluation, including a detailed review of your allergy symptoms, overall health, medical history, and past response to allergy treatments. We also perform allergy testing to identify the specific substances that trigger your immune system.
We might recommend immunotherapy if:
- Your allergies are not well-controlled with oral medication
- Your symptoms significantly disrupt your daily life
- You can’t avoid the substances that trigger your allergy symptoms
- You prefer to treat the cause as well as the symptoms of your allergies
- You develop significant side effects with oral medications
Immunotherapy is proving to be an effective treatment for both children and adults. We often recommend it for individuals with severe reactions to bee venom and other hard-to-avoid environmental allergens.
Types of immunotherapy
Immunotherapy has been around for over 100 years, and it has improved over time with testing and administration. Today there are several types of immunotherapy available, including:
Traditional immunotherapy begins with weekly injections for about a year. After the first year, we taper your injections to biweekly and then monthly.
Cluster immunotherapy is a quicker version of this treatment. You receive injections clustered in eight short appointments over approximately six weeks. Then you have biweekly and then monthly maintenance doses.
If you need rapid allergy relief, we might recommend rush immunotherapy. You receive 4-6 injections in one day, spaced an hour apart, and then weekly injections for 20 weeks, followed by biweekly and then monthly maintenance injections.
Oral food immunotherapy requires daily visits for a while when you consume tiny but gradually increasing amounts of the food that triggers your allergic reaction.
Regardless of the type of immunotherapy, your treatment must be closely supervised by one of our highly trained and experienced allergists who has the necessary skills to respond to any adverse reactions immediately.
If you want to learn more about immunotherapy and other highly effective allergy and asthma treatment, call our offices or use our online booking tool to schedule a visit today.