How Do Allergy Shots Work for Asthma?
If you have any questions regarding allergy shots for asthma and whether they could be right for you, contact us at Piniella Asthma + Allergy! Contact us for more information or schedule an appointment online! We have convenient locations to serve you in Coral Gables FL and Palmetto Bay FL.
Table of Contents:
What are allergy shots?
How long do allergy shots take to work?
Who can benefit from allergy shots?
How effective are allergy shots?
Asthma is, unfortunately, an unwelcome part of life for approximately 1 in 13 people in the US today. That’s a staggering 25 million people who live with the knowledge that the coughing, chest tightness, wheezing, and difficulty breathing that accompanies an asthma attack may be just around the next corner. We are not sure why a person may develop asthma, but genetic, environmental, and occupational factors are known to play a part, and whilst most allergies cannot be cured, there are treatments available that can help relieve the symptoms.
Allergy shots (also known as allergen immunotherapy) are regular injections that are given over a period of time to prevent or reduce allergy attacks and is one of the treatments used to treat asthma triggered by allergies.
Allergy shots for asthma contain a very small amount of the allergen(s) thought to cause the allergic reaction that led to an asthma attack. The shots contain just enough of the allergen(s) to stimulate the body’s immune system, much like a vaccine does, but not enough to cause a full-blown allergic reaction. Allergy shots are not seen as a cure for the disease but, by introducing increased amounts of the allergen over time (generally between three and five years), and exposing the body to greater and greater amounts of it, the sufferer is likely to develop a tolerance, resulting in the allergic reactions, and the resultant asthma attacks, becoming much less severe.
Allergy shots are generally injected in the upper arm and the treatment plan involves two phases, the ‘buildup phase’ and the ‘maintenance phase’. The buildup phase typically lasts for three to six months and the shots are given one to three times a week, with the allergen dose gradually being increased with each shot. The maintenance phase generally lasts for three to five years, maybe longer in some cases, and these shots are typically given about once a month.
In some cases, the buildup phase is done on a more rapid schedule, and several injections of increasing doses are given during each doctor visit. This can reduce the time needed to reach the maintenance phase but can also increase the risk of having a severe reaction, so should be discussed with your physician prior to making a final decision.
Allergy shots for allergic asthma is not a ‘quick fix’ treatment. Some patients may see some early improvement within the first several weeks of the initial phase, but it’s more usual to have to wait for at least four to five months before seeing some definite progress, and it could take as long as six to twelve months on a maintenance dose before any significant improvement is seen. The maintenance phase of the treatment can last between three to five years.
Only certain people can benefit from allergy shots, it’s not a treatment that suits or is safe, for everyone. Those people who are unable to avoid the allergens (e.g. dust mites, pollen, animals, bees/wasps) to which they are allergic are the best candidates, together with those who need to use multiple medications to manage their symptoms.
Allergy shots are beneficial for those patients who:
• Are not effectively able to control their asthma attack symptoms by medication or avoidance of triggers.
• Cannot avoid the triggers that cause asthma attacks.
• Have symptoms all year round, and not just, say, seasonal allergies such as hay fever.
• Have the time and dedication to invest in a treatment that will last several months or years.
• Are not able, or don’t want, to take certain asthma medications such as bronchodilators.
Allergy shots are not right for everyone and medical advice, which will likely include a medical history, should be sought before undertaking any course of treatment. Allergy shots are not given to children under five years of age as they are not able to effectively communicate any potential, or harmful, side effects.
Allergy shots are effective in providing long-term symptomatic relief even after the injections have stopped, and some people are able to stop taking their medications altogether. However, it can take up to a year of maintenance shots before the results are obvious and, in some cases, allergy shots are unfortunately not effective at all. There are a variety of reasons why this could be, including:
• Cessation of treatment due to reactions
• Being unable to avoid high-level exposure to allergens
• Not enough allergen in the shots
• Being unaware of certain allergens during your initial evaluation
We have locations in Coral Gables FL and Palmetto Bay, FL to better serve you and offer a broad range of services tailored to meet your asthma and allergy needs. Schedule your no-obligation consultation today! We serve patients from Coral Gables FL, Palmetto Bay FL, Westchester FL, Brownsville FL, Kendall FL, Pinecrest FL, Richmond West FL, and Goulds FL.