Immunotherapy is a method of allergy treatment that involves introducing small amounts of allergen to your body and then gradually building up doses over a period of time until you develop an immunity. There are two types of immunotherapy treatments: subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT), also known as allergy shots, and sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT), or allergy drops.
Individuals with allergy symptoms that do not respond to medical treatment are prime candidates for immunotherapy. Once the allergen trigger has been identified, an individualized extract of the substance(s) is prepared. The delivery method depends on which type of immunotherapy treatment you are receiving.
If you opt for allergy shots, you are given small injections in the upper arm once or twice a week until a maintenance dose is reached. The frequency is gradually reduced over a period of several months, until you are receiving shots about once a month. It takes three to five years for your body to build up a tolerance to the allergen, so treatment is a long-term commitment.
To make allergy shots more convenient, we have walk-in allergy shot clinic hours available at four of our locations.
Sublingual immunotherapy works on the same principle, but instead of allergy shots, you are given drops that you place under your tongue for several minutes and then swallow. This is usually done on a daily basis and, like allergy shots, results take anywhere from three to five years. Most sublingual immunotherapy is not yet FDA approved but has several advantages over allergy shots, namely the ability to self-administer at home and a lower risk of side effects and allergic reactions. Some specific forms of sublingual immunotherapy for specific allergens (such as grass, ringworm and dust mites) are FDA approved. Your provider will help you decide if those treatments are appropriate for you.
Is Immunotherapy Safe?
Both forms of immunotherapy are considered safe and effective long-term treatments for a number of allergies. It is most effective for those allergic to pollen, mold, dust mites, animal dander and insect venom. It will not work for food or drug allergies.
Side effects and complications are rare. Those receiving allergy shots might notice a little redness, swelling and tenderness at the injection site. Maintaining a consistent injection schedule helps to reduce the odds of serious reactions.
Call The Allergy Center at Sacramento Ear, Nose & Throat at (916) 736-6644 for more information or to schedule an appointment