FAQ - Allergy Immunotherapy (Allergy Shots)

Allergy Immunotherapy is a special injection treatment for environmental allergies and allergic asthma. It is usually offered to people with allergies that do not respond to medication.

What is actually in the injections?

People that get allergy shots receive injections of allergy serum specific against what they are allergic to. Examples of what may be contained in the serum include pollens (trees, grass, weeds and ragweed), dust mite, mold, cat and dog extract. Allergy shots are not given for food allergies. The serum is placed in bottles labeled for that person and is only used for that individual.

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How often will I get the shots and for how long?

The allergy immunotherapy program takes from 3-5 years to complete. Initially, injections are given weekly for the first year (build up doses of serum). It takes this long to reach the highest doses of the serum (maintenance dose of the serum). Once this is achieved the allergy shots are changed to every other week for 12 injections (approximately 6 months) then every 3 weeks for 12 injections (9 months) then every 4 weeks to complete the 3-5 years total of allergy injections.

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How often will I see the physician to discuss my allergies?

Patient’s receiving allergy shots are seen by the physician after the first 15 injections (approximately 4 months). This is about how long it takes to get through the more dilute concentrations of the allergy injections. Issues such as response to therapy, including changes in frequency and severity of symptoms and need for medications are reviewed then. Patients are then seen after every 12 injections to reevaluate progress with the program.

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What if I am not feeling well on the day of my allergy injection?

Prior to getting your allergy injection you will be asked how you feel that day. If you are not feeling well on the day of the injection including having a fever (greater than 100 degrees), shortness of breath, coughing, or wheezing you will not be able to get your injection. You can receive your injection if you are being treated for an infection and on antibiotics as long you do not have a fever over 100 degrees.

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Do I have to stay for the full 30 minutes after my allergy injection if I am on the maintenance dose and have never had a reaction?

You must stay 30 minutes after each allergy injection no matter how many injections you have had in the past. Allergic reactions to the injections can happen on any injection even if you have had them for years with no problems.

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Can I stop my medications since I am getting allergy injections?

Issues such as medication changes will be addressed during your scheduled office visit. The first office visit after starting allergy injections is after approximately the 16th injection.

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Can I come in for my allergy shots more than once per week?

During the build up phase of your allergy injections you can come in once or twice per week. If you come in twice per week you will be able to build up to the maintenance does in about 6 months. If you come weekly you will build up in about 12 months. It is best to try to have one day in between the injections to give your arms a chance to decrease any swelling that may occur.

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Is it normal to have some swelling after the injections?

It is normal to have some swelling after the allergy injections. We will ask you how your last injection went prior to giving the next injection. Try to remember how large the swelling was in sizes of coins i.e. dime, nickel, quarter and how long it lasted, i.e. less than 24 hours, more than 24 hours. For reactions that are greater than a quarter and last more than 24 hours we will make some adjustments in your injections.

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Can I continue my allergy injections if I get pregnant?

Allergy shots can be continued during pregnancy. For those patients who are still on the build up doses, we do not escalate the dose during pregnancy, instead we keep the patients on the same dose and wait until after delivery to escalate further. For those patients already on the maintenance dose we do decrease the dose until delivery. Please inform us as soon as possible if you are pregnant so we can make the necessary changes to your program.

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I am getting my allergy shots once per week. What will happen when I go on vacation for 2 weeks?

We have a protocol to handle when you are late for your allergy injection. Depending on how long it has been since your last injection, certain reductions in your dose will be made.

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What can I do to get the most benefit from my allergy injections?

The success of the program depends the person’s dedication to the program and to receiving your injections regularly. If you are late for an injection the dose will be decreased. This is done to decrease the risk of an adverse reaction to the shots. If you are consistently late for the injections then you will not be able to achieve optimal doses of the serum. If you are having trouble getting your shots during our allergy shot hours please let us know to see if alternative arrangements can be made.

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My symptoms are only in the spring and summer. Why do I have to get allergy shots all year round or can I just get them before and during my season?

The success of allergy immunotherapy revolves around slowly building up injections from very dilute concentrations of serum to more concentrated allergy serum. This process takes several months up to a year to achieve. The effect of the allergy shots will be lost if there are long lapses in between injections. Studies have shown that the best effects of immunotherapy is in patients that received at least three consecutive years of therapy. Those patients that stopped before three years had early relapse in symptoms, usually within the first year.

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Are there any medications that could interfere with allergy shots?

Yes. Patients that take either beta blockers or certain psychiatric drugs known as MAO-Inhibitors cannot receive allergy shots. If your doctor has placed you on either a beta blocker or a MAO-inhibitor please inform the nurse or physician prior to getting your next allergy injection. Beta blockers are used to treat many different types of medical problems including: high blood pressure, after having a heart attack, certain irregular heart rhythms, tremors and for migraine headaches. MAO-Inhibitors are usually prescribed by psychiatrists. If you are not sure if any of your medications fall into either of these two categories please let us know so we can check for you.

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