Ask Surly Amy: Allergy Shots
Dear Surly Amy,
What’s the scoop on allergy shots? The year I spent on the maintenance dose was the sickest I’ve ever been in my life. I just moved to a new state and am pondering whether to start them up again. Are they really the amazing cure-all my allergist seemed to think they were?
As you know, I’m not a doctor but I’m still I’m pretty darn sure that there is no such thing as an amazing cure-all. However, allergy shots can be an effective treatment in many cases.
I am allergic to a lot of things. A few years back I went to an allergy specialist and was tested. I came up positive to every blooming tree that grows in my area, and to dust mites and almost every furry critter- but for some reason, not bunny rabbits.
So I completely understand your frustration with allergies.
When discussing allergens, allergy shots can be very effective in helping your body build up an immunity, over time. My understanding is that it takes many years on allergy shot maintenance doses- up to five or six before your body has built up tolerance to see a true difference, or in a sense a ‘cure.’ So the year you spent not feeling well could have happened for any number of reasons and can’t necessarily be correlated with the shots themselves.
Allergy shots are a form of immunotherapy and work by being fine tuned to the particular person’s allergies. A tiny bit of each allergen a person reacts to, is mixed into a shot, that is given regularly on a slowly increasing level until a maintenance level is achieved so that your body can naturally build up a tolerance and thus you will- over time- have less of an extreme immune response to the allergens you come in contact with. Then the shots are given, usually monthly for up to six years.
From the Mayo Clinic:
“Allergy shots are a form of treatment called immunotherapy. Each allergy shot contains a tiny amount of the specific substance or substances that trigger your allergic reactions. These are called allergens. Allergy shots contain just enough allergens to stimulate your immune system — but not enough to cause a full-blown allergic reaction.
Over time, your doctor increases the dose of allergens in each of your allergy shots. This helps get your body used to the allergens (desensitization). Your immune system builds up a tolerance to the allergens, and your allergy symptoms diminish over time.”
A popular reason for getting allergy shots is to build up an immunity from dangerous allergens such as insect stings. Another reason to get allergy shots is so you can eventually stop taking allergy medications which may interact with other drugs you have to take for other conditions. The most popular reason for getting allergy shots is that allergies totally SUCK. And when you have multiple allergies, your body is having an unnecessary, overactive immune response to so many things that you leave yourself open to other ailments because your body is run down from fighting the allergies. Which could explain why you, Megan where sick a lot. Not because of the shots themselves, but because your body was worn down because of your allergies. Also, I should note that sadly, often the most dangerous allergens, the one’s that are most often associated with anaphylactic shock– foods, can not be treated with allergy maintenance shots.
Also, if you move, as Megan mentioned she had, you have to get retested for your allergies. There are so many potential allergens in the world that when maintenance shots are given, they are fine tuned to a specific areas. A tree that grows in Southern California, for example, may not grow in Northern California. So if you were on maintenance doses in one area, you will likely have to start again from the beginning in another area.
I hope this was helpful. Do talk to your doctor for more information and good luck with those allergies!
HA HA HACHOOOOO!
Sorry, my terrible insurance policy wouldn’t pay for my allergy shots. So sadly, I am still taking generic Benedryl when needed. *falls asleep at desk.
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