Although there are number of different treatments available for allergies, most if not all only treat the symptoms and not the root cause of the problem. Well-known antihistamines such as Benadryl a.k.a. diphenhydramine, Claritin also called loratadine together with decongestant sprays such as Nasonex, are available by prescription or over the counter and do a good job in providing relief for allergy sufferers.
Allergic reactions are ultimately caused by an overactive immune system and a treatment known as allergy immunotherapy attempts to offer a longer-term solution by changing how the immune system responds to various allergens. It is, in effect, a form of vaccination better known as allergy shots
How does Allergy Immunotherapy Work
As a rule, allergy immunotherapy is administered in the form of weekly shots. A carefully calibrated dose of an allergen, such as an extract of birch pollen or pet dander, which maybe genetically modified, is injected by syringe. Given that an allergic reaction is an overreaction to a substance seen as a foreign invader, the aim is to slowly desensitize the immune system and educate it to better recognize friend from foe.
Allergy shots have been used clinically for several years but there are some downsides to this form of treatment and they do not work for all types of allergies or sufferers.
Shots are much costlier than OTC pills and creams and because they have to be administered by a trained professional allergist, they are frequently more expensive than prescription medications taken at home.
In order to fine-tune the exact type and amount of allergen given in the shots, numerous visits to the doctor will be required over several months. Once the correct treatment levels have been established, they will need to be administered on a regular basis over a period of up to five years or maybe more in some cases.
The ultimate goal of allergy immunotherapy is permanently alter the immune system reaction of the patient to certain allergens and this process unfortunately takes time.
In some cases, such as food allergies, immunotherapy shots are not used as a form of treatment. This is not say that they would not be useful but the very real risk of anaphylaxis is regarded too high. Because the injected allergy shots produce an allergic reaction in the patient, the chance that a food allergy sufferer can have a life-threatening reaction to the substance is too high to chance.
Allergy Immunotherapy Effectiveness
On the upside, there is a lot of evidence from various clinical studies that back up a belief in the effectiveness of allergy shots. Although this form of treatment does not work for everybody, it does seem to be effective in about three-quarters of those who receive it over the long-term. Over time, those sufferers do eventually rid themselves entirely of the allergy and for most, even a significant decrease in symptoms makes the effort and expense worthwhile.
Allergy immunotherapy is effective in treating those who suffer hypersensitive reactions to pet dander, dust mite waste and pollen grains. It is also very effective for those who cannot take or do not find relief from normal allergy medications.
It has been successful at permanently relieving hay fever and could also help prevent the onset of asthma in children. Allergy shots have, in addition, been shown to reduce the chances of an allergic reaction to bee and wasp stings.
Immunotherapy allergy shots are very good news for sufferers of severe allergy symptoms, or those who just want to avoid taking tablets for the rest of their lives.