What Are Allergy Shots?

Dr. Landon Bunderson

PHD, Pollination Ecology

If you suffer from allergies, you may want to consider getting allergy shots. Allergy shots are a method of treating allergies that can provide long-term results. These shots work by decreasing your sensitivity to the many allergens found all around us. Even after you stop receiving the shots, their benefits can last.

The shots can be a cost-effective way to battle your allergies.

Would Allergy Shots Benefit Me?

A range of people can benefit from receiving allergy shots, including most children over five and most healthy adults. If you are a senior, however, who suffers from a heart condition, you will want to discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor.  

There are a few other questions you will want to ask yourself when determining whether you are a good candidate for allergy shots. These include the following:

What Happens When I Receive My Shot?

Allergy shots are very similar to vaccines. The shot injects you with a particular allergen. The doses gradually increase. Over time, your body responds by developing a kind of immunity to or tolerance for that particular allergen.

Typically, there are two phases in receiving allergy shots. In the first phase, you will receive one to two shots per week. Each time you receive a shot, the amount of allergen you are given will increase. This phase usually lasts about three to six months.

The second phase is called the maintenance phase. Once you have received an effective build-up dose, the maintenance phase begins. In this phase, you will typically only need to receive the shot every two to four weeks.

What Can I Expect From This Treatment?

Many people notice a decrease in their allergy symptoms, even during the first phase. However, others will not notice a difference until they have been in the maintenance phase for about a year. Each person is different and responds a little differently to the treatment.

If the treatment is effective for you, you can expect your maintenance phase to last around three to five years. If you do want to stop treatment, make sure you discuss the decision with your immunologist.  

What Are The Benefits of Allergy Shots?

For many, allergy shots can decrease the allergy symptoms they experience. Allergy shots can also prevent the development of new allergies. For children with allergies, allergy shots can sometimes prevent their allergic disease from becoming something more serious, like asthma.

The effectiveness of allergy shots is related to the length of the treatment. Effectiveness is also related to the dose of the allergen. Many people find that the shots give them lasting relief from allergy symptoms. Some find that they relapse once the treatment is discontinued.

Are There Risks Associated With Allergy Shots?

You may notice a redness and swelling at the site of injection. This reaction is not serious and can happen immediately or several hours after the injection. Some people may notice that their allergy symptoms increase at first–they may experience increased sneezing, nasal congestion, or hives.

It is rare to experience a serious reaction. These rare reactions need to be treated immediately. If you experience a tightening in your chest, dizziness, swelling in your throat, or nausea, you may be having a serious reaction.

Typically, when you receive your shot, you will wait 30 minutes in the doctor’s office afterward. If you were to have a reaction, it would usually happen within those first 30 minutes and you could be treated by your doctor.