Although there is no cure for allergies, many people have found immunotherapy (more commonly known as allergy shots) to be an extremely effective way to manage irritating symptoms. Allergy shots are usually discussed as an option for people who have not been able to control their allergies with other methods, people who are not able to avoid the cause of their allergies, and people who have experienced unpleasant side effects from other types of allergy medication .
During an allergic reaction, the immune system overreacts to a normally harmless substance. Allergy shots work by exposing the system to small amounts of the problem allergen until the body can effectively build up natural defenses against it. They are administrated over a given period of time. The number of injections will depend on the severity and type of the allergy. Immunotherapy is usually very effective and can help to drastically reduce allergy symptoms. Normally, allergy shots are very safe. Exposure to the allergen is minimal, and should not be enough to trigger a problem. However, it is possible for them to cause an allergic reaction. They should only be administered by trained medical professionals in a safe environment to avoid any possible complications.
What to expect from an allergy shot
It is fairly common for patients to experience a small amount of boiling or discomfort at or near the injection site. This may occur immediately after the shot, or may not appear until a few hours later. This is usually a harmless reaction that should go away within 24 hours.
Occidentally, the shots will trigger the very sorts of allergic reactions that they are meant to get rid of. Exposure to a known allergen is always risky, and it may be necessary to adjust the dosage if reactions occasion. These reactions will have the same types of symptoms as a regular reaction to the allergen. For example, someone who is taking the shots to manage an allergy to dogs may experience the same symptoms that they normally would after coming into contact with pet dander. These are usually minor reactions, and may include:
- Sneezing, difficulty breathing, a runny nose, or an itchy rash (especially at the injection site)
These symptoms will usually disappear fairly quickly. However, most allergists agree that it is a good idea to monitor patients for up to 30 minutes after an allergy shot just to make sure.
In very rare cases, allergy shots can trigger a serious reaction called anaphylaxis.
Serious Allergic Reactions to Immunotherapy
During anaphylaxis, the respiratory system will show signs of great distress. Some signs of anaphylaxis are a serious constriction of the airways, swelling and tightening of the throat, serious difficulty breathing, or a rapid pulse. Anaphylaxis is a potentially life-threatening condition, so it is essential to seek emergency medical attention right away at the first sign of any of these symptoms.
Take the Right Precautions
It is never safe to risk exposure to a known allergen without proper precautions. Since there is a slight risk of an allergic reaction to immunotherapy, it is important that these shots are only administrated by a trained medical professional in a safe environment. Do not leave the doctor's office until all symptoms, even minor ones, have faded.