Allergen immunotherapy, or "allergy shots," involves injecting increasing amounts of the substance to which your child is allergic over a period of time. This process leads to a change in the immune system and a decrease in the symptoms that would otherwise follow allergen exposure.
Conditions treated with immunotherapy include allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis, asthma with a strong allergic component and insect sting allergy.
Generally, 85 to 90 percent of patients who are receiving high-dose maintenance immunotherapy will have a significant improvement in their allergic symptoms as well as a reduction in their need for additional medication.
Immunotherapy is best prescribed when:
- Symptoms are moderate to severe and occur for at least several months each year
- Symptoms have not responded well to a thorough medical plan
- Side effects of medications cannot be tolerated or multiple medications are not desired
- Environmental control measures have been undertaken and those things to which your child is allergic cannot be easily avoided
Improvements in your child's symptoms may begin several months after maintenance doses are reached. Near maximum benefits are usually seen if the first year of therapy is completed before the next pollen season. Maximum benefit may not be reached until the second pollen season after treatment is begun. Generally, patients receive injections for about three to five years, at which point the symptoms usually do not return if immunotherapy is stopped. If the therapy is clearly beneficial, some specialists will recommend that the monthly injections continue for at least five or even seven years.