Is allergy immunotherapy for me?

Immunotherapy is like getting a series of vaccinations for your allergies. These shots stimulate your immune system to fight allergies by enhancing your natural resistance.

How to Decide

Immunotherapy isn't for everyone. It's not commonly used, for instance, with very young children, and it may be inappropriate for children of preschool age or younger and senior citizens. Many people choose immunotherapy when they can't avoid their allergens or get satisfactory results from medication alone.

What to Consider

There are drawbacks to the process itself. For instance, it takes years of weekly visits to the doctor's office to achieve results. In addition, the tolerance you build to allergens may not last forever.

Immunotherapy also involves a health risk, since you're injected with something to which you're allergic. If you do receive immunotherapy, your doctor will closely watch how you react.

When You Receive Immunotherapy
  • Immunotherapy makes you less sensitive to the substances that cause your allergy symptoms.
  • It is a long-term treatment that can go on for years.
  • It works by changing the way your body's immune system responds to allergens.

Immunotherapy, also called allergy shots, is a preventive treatment for allergies. It involves a series of injections designed to make your body less sensitive to the allergens that trouble you. While immunotherapy doesn't actually cure allergies, it can greatly reduce symptoms. It can be successful in up to 90% of people with seasonal nasal allergies. For those with year-round nasal allergies, it works 70% to 80% of the time.

Getting the Best Results
  • Continue injections on a regular basis until treatment is discontinued.
  • Wait for 20 to 30 minutes at your allergist's office after receiving injections so the staff can watch for any adverse reaction, such as an anaphylactic reaction
  • If you develop swelling at the injection site or a local reaction, apply ice and ask your doctor about oral antihistamines and about adjusting the dose of vaccine.
  • Even after you leave your allergist's office, watch for signs of a severe reaction, including sneezing, watery nasal discharge, nausea, chest tightness and dizziness. If any of these occur, get medical help immediately.

For more information about types of allergy treatments, see the links on the next page.