Allergy Shots: How Long Before They Start
Allergies are often treated symptomatically.
This means managing and treating the symptoms rather than the cause. There
are numerous medications that can inhibit the release of histamine and other
allergy-inducing chemicals. They help alleviate symptoms like redness,
itching, swelling, and difficulty of breathing. However, none of these
therapies address the cause of the allergy; none of these therapies try to
modify how the immune system reacts to allergens so that future attacks are
prevented. Immunotherapy does exactly that. So, what is immunotherapy?
What is Immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy, also called allergy shots, is a series of vaccinations
containing a specific allergen. The goal of immunotherapy is to condition
the immune system to tolerate a specific stimulus or allergen so that
symptoms and future occurrences are reduced. When the immune system learns
to handle the allergen, symptoms are less likely to show up. If symptoms do
occur, they are not as serious and they do not stay for very long.
How is immunotherapy done?
Immunotherapy is done by injecting small amounts of the allergen in the
subcutaneous part of the skin. This is not a one-time event because a series
of doses need to be administered for the immune system to recognize the
allergen as a harmless substance. Shots are given slowly and steadily until
the immune system is completely conditioned with the presence of the
Albeit a slow process, allergy shots can lead to a lasting decrease of
symptoms, and it can even lead to a complete remission. This type of therapy
can also prevent the development of new allergens and stimuli. For example,
there are people who are allergic to a specific species of grass pollen and
they can develop allergy to other species of grass pollen over a few years.
Immunotherapy can help break this cycle.
How long does it take before allergy shots start working?
As mentioned, this type of therapy is slow. It can take a long period of time
before it can work. Just like everything, much depends on the person and
their immune system. That is why strong commitment on the part of the patient
is crucial. You Immunotherapy is divided into two phases: the build-up phase and
the maintenance phase.
In the build-up phase, injections are given once or twice a week for a
period of three to six months. Initial doses contain very low concentrations
of the allergen. The amount of allergen is increased gradually until it
reaches the maintenance phase. Many patients already see results during this
phase, but it may take longer for some people before they can feel the
effects of immunotherapy.
When the maintenance phase is reached, allergy shots are given once or twice
a month for a period of three to five years. Some patients may stop on their
third year while others may continue to five years depending on how well
their immune systems react to the treatment. Upon the completion of the
maintenance phase, the treating physician usually recommends that the
therapy be stopped. By this time, the patient should experiences reduced
symptoms or complete remission from the allergy.
People who experience relapses may need to
undergo a longer maintenance phase. In some cases a person may find that the
shots never really helped.