Even though the weather still feels like winter, the seasonal allergies sure do remind you that it is spring. If you are one of the 50 million people in Portland and throughout the country with environmental allergies, now is the time when you really begin to suffer.
What if I told you there was an easy way to treat your allergies, beyond taking daily medications? Now that I’ve got your attention – the answer is allergy shots.
How Do Allergy Shots Work?
Allergy shots work by getting your body used to the allergen slowly, with the hope that you will develop an immunity or tolerance to the allergen. The process takes place in two phases, the build-up phase and the maintenance phase.
The build-up phase involves a small amount of the allergen being injected into the upper arm once or twice a week for a few months. The dosage is gradually increased at each visit. The length of the build-up phase depends entirely on your body’s reaction.
Once you have reached the effective dose, typically the most you can handle without showing symptoms, the maintenance phase will begin. The dosage is no longer increased at each visit and the number of shots is decreased. The maintenance phase involves an allergy shot once every month for three to five years.
Are There Any Risks with Allergy Shots?
Now we come to the major downside of allergy shots – they are shots. This means they must be administered in a clinic (time commitment) and they hurt as much as a standard vaccination.
Since allergy shots contain a substance you are allergic to, there are some risks involved. Swelling and redness usually develop at the site of injection but are quick to clear up. Sneezing, nasal congestion and hives may develop as well as more severe reactions such as wheezing or chest tightness. Anaphylaxis, the most serious reaction, rarely occurs.
To make these shots safe, they are always administered in a clinical setting. This means any reaction that does occur can be easily treated.
What Can You Expect from Allergy Shots?
Allergy symptoms will not improve overnight; symptoms will typically improve over the first year of treatment and continue to improve over the next few years. The shots may even decrease symptoms of other allergens and prevent new allergies from developing.