Immunotherapy treatment (allergy shots) is based on a century-old concept that the immune system can be desensitized to specific allergens that trigger allergy symptoms. These symptoms may be caused by allergic respiratory conditions such as allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and asthma.
While common allergy medications often control symptoms; if you stop taking the medication(s), your allergy symptoms return shortly afterward via an allergic reaction. That’s why treating the immune system and immune cells via immunotherapy is beneficial and becomes a line of defense to seasonal allergies, food allergies, types of cancer, and more.
Allergy shots can potentially lead to lasting remission of allergy symptoms, and they may play a preventive role in terms of the development of asthma and new allergies.
Treatment involves injecting the allergen(s), causing the allergy symptoms. These allergens are identified by a combination of a medical evaluation performed by a trained allergist/immunologist and allergy skin or allergy blood tests.
The types of immunotherapy treatment begin with a build-up phase. Injections containing increasing amounts of the allergens are given 1 to 2 times a week until the target dose is reached. This target dose varies from person to person. The target dose may be reached in 3 to 6 months with a conventional schedule (one dose increase per visit) but may be achieved in a shorter period of time with fewer visits with accelerated schedules such as a cluster that administers 2-3 dose increases per visit.
The maintenance phase begins when the target dose is reached. Once the maintenance dose is reached, the time between the allergy injections can be increased and generally range from every 2 to every 4 weeks. Maintenance immunotherapy treatment is generally continued for 3 to 5 years.
Some people have lasting remission of their allergy symptoms but others may relapse after dis- continuing immunotherapy, so the duration of allergen immunotherapy varies from person to person.
Furthermore, immunotherapy has become a leading path in cancer treatment and prevention. Immunotherapy helps to ensure your body and immune system are operating optimally much like a cancer vaccine. According to the department of health, immunotherapy is the first line of defense in cancer prevention. To learn more about cancer immunotherapy specifically, click here.
Risks involved with the immunotherapy approach are rare but may include serious life-threatening anaphylaxis. For that reason, immunotherapy should only be given under the supervision of a physician or qualified physician extender (nurse practitioner or physician assistant) in a facility equipped with proper staff and equipment to identify and treat adverse reactions to allergy injections.
Now, more than ever is an important time to evaluate your health and ensure your immune response is acting optimally. Treatment options vary, so reach out to schedule an appointment and evaluate your options today!
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