Get Allergy Relief through Immunotherapy

If allergy meds simply don't do the trick, it might be time to try immunotherapy

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Immunotherapy may help with your seasonal allergy symptoms

If you can’t tolerate allergy meds or need aggressive treatment, immunotherapy might be for you

One in six Canadians experienced the symptoms of seasonal allergies, including watery eyes, stuffy nose, sneezing, headache, coughing and fatigue.

While most people are able to manage their symptoms (related to dust, pollen, mould and other airborne allergens) with lifestyle changes and medications, there are those who don’t tolerate medications or whose symptoms are severe enough to warrant more aggressive treatment.

Immunotherapy as Allergy Treatment

That’s where immunotherapy – progressively desensitizing the body to allergens by using allergy injections – can be helpful.
 The first step in immunotherapy involves a skin test to determine the precise allergen. Once the allergen has been identified, the doctor begins a series of allergy injections, starting with administering just enough of the allergen to trigger a mild immune response.

The doctor then slowly increases the amount of the allergen administered (at regular intervals) over many months. This causes the immune system to build up tolerance to the allergen, thereby greatly reducing symptoms. Once the body has built up its tolerance to the allergen, the person being treated enters the maintenance phase, which can involve getting an allergy injection at longer intervals (usually once a month).

Risks vs. Results

Most people tolerate the process well, although there can be a risk of reactions, which is why patients wait in the doctor’s office for at least 30 minutes after receiving an allergy shot. 

Getting control of severe allergies using immunotherapy takes time, but the results are worth the effort, especially for those with severe allergies to airborne allergens and even life-threatening allergies to insect bites. If you have severe symptoms that are tough to control, talk to your doctor about seeing an allergist.

Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.