Treatment of Allergies
Allergy Treatment FAQ
Should I pursue allergy treatment?
Despite the advances in allergy care during the past several decades, there are still only three basic, accepted approaches to allergy care.
- Avoidance: The first most basic treatment step, once an allergen has been identified, is to eliminate or avoid contact with it, if possible. Unfortunately, avoiding some allergens (such as dust, molds, and animals) is often difficult and thus allergen avoidance alone may not be effective.
- Pharmacotherapy: Medications can frequently control allergy symptoms. These may include antihistamines, decongestants, prescription nasal sprays, leukotriene inhibitors and other types of products.
- Immunotherapy: When allergen avoidance and medications do not successfully control allergy symptoms, the Otolaryngic Allergist can alter the body’s overactive response by carefully challenging the patient’s immune system with the actual allergens to which a patient is sensitive. Allergy injections or sublingual drops may be given after allergy testing has revealed what it is that a patient is allergic to. Over time, it is possible to alter a person’s excessive response to these environmental allergens, improve symptoms, as well as decrease the need for medications and allergen avoidance for many years.
How does immunotherapy work?
The body treats allergy immunotherapy much like a vaccine, resulting in the production of antibodies against pollen, dust, mold, and pet dander. Over time, your body’s immune system is altered and therefore won’t have as much, or any, allergic response when exposed to the allergens. These changes can last for many years even after stopping allergy shots or sublingual drops. Recent studies show that immunotherapy can also prevent people from developing new allergies, and reduce the risk of developing asthma in children with nasal allergies.
How long will I take allergy shots or sublingual drops?
Every patient’s treatment is individualized based on their specific symptoms, but on average the shots or sublingual drops are taken anywhere from 3 – 5 years.
What are the risks of immunotherapy?
- The risk of immunotherapy consists of the possibility of experiencing an allergic reaction. Localized reaction such as mild swelling or itching at the injection site is very common and usually dissipates quickly. Occasionally, due to larger local reaction, a patient may require an adjustment of the immunotherapy dosage or an adjustment to the patient’s formula.
- Less commonly some patients may experience a systemic allergic reaction called “anaphylaxis”. This type of reaction may consist of itching of the skin, hives. Others are more severe and can present with cough, chest tightness, wheezing, throat tightness, shock, and can be life-threatening. For this reason, all shot patients will be prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector that they must bring with them in order to receive their injection or sublingual drops.
Why do I have to see my doctor every six months?
It is important for the physician to evaluate all immunotherapy patients every six months or as directed to re-evaluate their symptoms, discuss any reactions, update medications and make adjustments to their shot formula if necessary.
How often should I be retested?
This is the doctor’s personal preference and is dependent on how well the individual tolerates immunotherapy. Some patients will be retested after 3-5 years, and some patients may be weaned off of their shots and not retested at all.
When can I expect symptom relief?
Every patient will respond differently to allergy immunotherapy. Usually, symptoms will start to subside 6-9 months after beginning shots or sublingual drops.
Pulmonary Function Test – When diagnosing allergy, it is important that your doctor evaluate your lung function for signs of developing asthma. This is called a Pulmonary Function Test. Likewise, when diagnosing asthma, it is important that your doctor move beyond the lungs and evaluate your allergy symptoms. The best treatment addresses both conditions to improve the overall health of your airway. If you are an asthma patient that requires daily medication, you might consider being evaluated for allergy. By diagnosing and treating your allergies early, you may remove a common trigger of asthma symptoms.
Allergy Shots (Immunotherapy) – Immunotherapy is a unique method of treating allergies. This is the only treatment that actually works on the root cause of allergies. The patient is actually injected with things they are allergic to. The body can then slowly build an “immunity” to the allergies they have. Allergy shots do not work immediately, but rather take time for the immunity to develop. Ideally, after taking shots weekly for 3-5 years, the body can build up an approximate 20 year immunity. Patients who take Beta-Blockers should not take allergy shots.
- Your allergies and asthma – Up to 80% of asthmatic patients also have allergic rhinitis. Allergy immunotherapy reduces your body’s allergic response to specific allergy triggers and has been clinically proven treatment that may significantly reduce allergic symptoms. In clinical studies, asthma patients who received allergy immunotherapy in addition to standard asthma treatment reported fewer asthma symptoms, required less asthma medication, and demonstrated improved lung function compared to those receiving standard asthma treatment alone.
Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT) – Once, allergy treatment was limited to injections, medications that made you drowsy, and lifestyle changes that were difficult to live with. Now, a new treatment method is available called sublingual immunotherapy. Using SLIT, a serum containing substances the patient is allergic to is placed underneath the tongue. The body will absorb the serum and the immune system will then respond by making antibodies to build up an immunity to the antigens you are allergic to. After taking the sublingual therapy for 3-5 years, the body can build up an approximate 20 year immunity.
SLIT is not recommended for everyone, and most insurance companies do not yet pay for this type of treatment, but it is proving to be another effective means of treating allergies. This type of treatment is considered when a patient can’t or won’t take allergy injections.
Allergy Department Policies
- Every allergy immunotherapy patient will be required to bring their EpiPen with them and show it to allergy staff in order to receive their injections or sublingual immunotherapy.
- All Allergy immunotherapy patients are required to wait for 20 minutes after their injections.
- All Allergy immunotherapy patients are required to have a yearly checkup appointment with their physician in order to receive further shots or vials.
- Any patients that are on a medication classified as a Beta-Blocker should not take allergy shots. Please inform the physician or allergy staff if you have been prescribed a Beta-Blocker.
West Des Moines Allergy Shot Hours
Mon & Fri: 7:00 – 10:45 AM and 12:15 – 2:45 PM
Tues, Wed, & Thurs: 8:30 – 11:15 AM and 12:45 – 4:30 PM
All patients are required to wait 20 minutes after their injections. All patients are prescribed an epi-pen which they are required to have with them at each injection appointment.
- Current Pollen Count: www.pollen.com
- Food Allergy Research and Education: www.foodallergy.org
- Epinephrine Auto Injector Options and Copay Assistance:
- Patient Assistance Programs for those without health coverage: www.rxassist.org
- American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy: www.aaoaf.org