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Tell me about Allergies!

Allergy Immunotherapy

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How do allergy shots or drops work?

The theory behind allergy immunotherapy is helping the body's immune system build a tolerance to the allergens it currently reacts to.  This is done by starting with very very small amounts of these allergens and gradually building up to a target dose we know is effective.  This takes between 1-5 months to get to the target dose, depending on the form of immunotherapy you are using, and how your body tolerates it.  Once you reach the target dose, you continue at that dose for 3-5 years, with important changes taking place in your immune system over that entire time.  When you finish with immunotherapy, most people have a 3+ year period of sustained relief.

Why use immunotherapy (allergy shots or drops)?

The other mainstays of allergy treatment (avoiding allergens or using medicines to control the symptoms) make temporary changes only.  Immunotherapy makes permanent changes in your immune system, helping you develop tolerance to the allergens to which you currently react. Additionally, immunotherapy can decrease the rate at which you develop future allergic sensitivities, and can improve or prevent (in allergic children) asthma.  

What's it like to get Immunotherapy (allergy shots or drops)?

Immunotherapy can be delivered as weekly allergy shots (injection immunotherapy or subcutaneous immunotherapy, SCIT) or daily under-the-tongue drops (sublingual immunotherapy, SLIT).  Compare SCIT and SLIT.