What Is Allergen Immunotherapy?

What Is Allergen Immunotherapy?

Allergen Immunotherapy (AIT) is used to relieve allergic nose and eye symptoms, allergic asthma and allergies to stinging or biting insects. AIT is commonly known as “allergy shots,” the most common type of immunotherapy.

The shots contain common allergens – such as pollens, mold spores, dust mites, animal dander and insects – and work to decrease your body’s allergic inflammatory response.

Who can get allergy shots?

Both children and adults are eligible to receive allergy shots. Symptom severity, the control you have over your exposure to indoor allergens, environmental changes, allergy medications, time commitment and cost are all factors to consider when evaluating whether to get allergy shots.

Timing of allergy shots

It’s recommended that AIT be done for three to five years. There are “build-up” and “maintenance” phases. You must be able to dedicate at least three to six months to the build-up phase process. At that point, your doctor will increase the dose of the allergens to once or twice a week. After the build-up phase, the maintenance phase will begin, and you’ll receive shots once a month.

When the three to five years are over, you and your allergist will decide how to proceed with therapy.

Risks of AIT

The most common side effect is mild swelling of the arm, redness or tenderness at the site of the injection. There is a small risk of anaphylaxis with AIT, and this risk will be discussed with you with your allergy team.

Alternative to allergy shots

Recently, the Food and Drug Administration approved dissolvable under-the-tongue tabs for northern grasses, ragweed and dust mites. If you are shot-averse, or have trouble committing to the schedule of receiving a shot at your doctor’s office, sublingual tabs may be an option for you to do at home. Ask your allergist if this option is available to you.

If you think you may be a good candidate for AIT, or would like to learn more about allergies and treatment, talk to your allergist.

UCF Health offers allergy care and immunotherapy from its Lake Nona office location.

Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus, and the newest one in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at UCFHealth.com, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.

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