Immunotherapy (allergy shots).
The immunization procedure begins with injections of small amounts of purified "extracts" of the substances that are causing allergic reactions. For example, the animal dander, dust mites, or pollen. Each of these has proteins which can be used to induce tolerance when properly administered. The immunization injections are approved for this purpose by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and, over the years, have been improved considerably.
Allergy shots stimulate the immune system to fight allergies safely, effectively and naturally. Beginning with small doses and increasing gradually on a twice weekly or weekly basis, the therapy continues until a maintenance level is achieved. Then the maintenance dose is injected on a less frequent basis.
Immunity does not occur immediately, but patients can begin to feel better quickly. In many patients, treatment can be discontinued after 3 or 5 years and the immunity is maintained for several additional years. For others, treatment may be needed for longer periods of time.
With the immune system restored to good health, fewer or no medications may be required. Work or school days are no longer missed. The burden of allergies is lifted, and allergies are no longer an issue in daily life.
Candidates for immunotherapy include patients of all ages. Pregnant patients may continue treatment started prior to pregnancy.
Until recently, allergy shots (immunotherapy) had been used as a last resort after medications and environmental control efforts had been unsuccessful. Recent studies suggest that immunotherapy should begin sooner rather that later. As opposed to antihistamines, which treat symptoms, or inhaled steroids, which prevent symptoms, allergy shots are designed to actually eliminate the underlying allergy. The Practice Parameters for Allergen Immunotherapy quote studies stating that receiving allergy shots for one or two items actually prevents the formation of allergies to other allergens. The Practice Parameters also point out that for children with allergies limited to the nose and sinuses, allergy shots reduce the chances that the allergy will progress to asthma, decrease the frequency of sinus and bronchial infections, and enable patients to get better sooner and stay better longer.