Cure Summertime Allergies – It's Worth a Shot
Summer's lush lawns and landscapes bring sneezing, itching and stuffy nose misery to the millions of Americans with grass allergies. But no one needs to suffer from the symptoms caused by this common culprit. A treatment developed 100 years ago actually gives you substantially more than a shot at a cure.
Immunotherapy (also called allergy shots) can be used to treat a variety of allergy triggers, such as pet dander and dust mites as well as grass and other pollens. The treatment works like a vaccine, exposing you to tiny (but increasing) amounts of the allergen to build up your immune system's tolerance to it. Immunotherapy involves once- or twice-weekly visits to the allergist for six to eight months. Then, visits typically spread out to once every two weeks, and then once a month.
The ACAAI and its allergist members – doctors who are experts at diagnosing and treating allergies and asthma – offer these five things you should know if you about immunotherapy. Allergy shots:
- Prevent asthma – Research shows immunotherapy can prevent the development of asthma, a serious condition that causes chronic inflammation of the airways. That's especially beneficial for kids with allergies, many of whom go on to develop asthma.
- Thwart allergies – Immunotherapy can prevent you from developing other allergies.
- Save money – Many people begin saving money by reducing their medication within a few months of starting immunotherapy, studies show. Allergy shots also save money thanks to fewer doctor and hospital visits.
- Are well-tolerated – Allergy shots are only minimally uncomfortable. The needle is small and is inserted just under the surface of the skin, not into the muscle.
- Are safe – When performed under the care of an allergist, studies have shown immunotherapy is safe, even for children, pregnant women and seniors. In very rare cases allergy shots can cause a severe, potentially deadly reaction called anaphylaxis. This is why allergy shots are always given in the allergist's office and patients stay there for at least 30 minutes.
"Although immunology takes a commitment of three to five years, my patients are thrilled to reduce their medication and eventually be free of it altogether," said Ira Finegold, M.D., past president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) and chairman of the Immunotherapy and Diagnostics Committee.
Learn about immunotherapy, allergy testing and find an allergist near you.