What are allergy shots?

Allergy shots are injections that are given over time to help your body develop a tolerance for specific types of allergens, including pollen, dust mites, pet dander, mold spores, and stinging insect venom. Also called immunotherapy, allergy shots use very small amounts of allergens, slowly exposing your body to the cause of allergic reactions so it can adjust to those allergens over time. As the treatment progresses, the amount of allergens in the injections is gradually increased to improve tolerance levels. The goal of allergy shots is to reduce or even eliminate allergic reactions caused by specific substances. Before undergoing immunotherapy, you may have allergy testing to help identify the specific substance or substances that cause allergic reactions so your allergy shot therapy can be customized for your needs.

What happens during immunotherapy?

Allergy shots are typically administered once or more every week for several weeks to help introduce your body to allergen exposure. In most cases, shots are given in the upper arm. Once an initial tolerance has been established, the frequency of shots is often decreased, often to once per month, to help the body maintain its resistance to the allergens. Dosing is strictly controlled to reduce the risk of any serious allergic reaction, and after each shot, you’ll need to remain in the office for a brief period of time to ensure you don’t experience a serious reaction.

How long will it take before I notice a reduction in my allergy symptoms?

That depends in part on how severe your allergic reaction is in the first place. Most patients experience initial results within the first year of treatment, with more substantial results occurring in the second year of treatment. Depending on how well you respond to immunotherapy and how severe your symptoms are to begin with maintenance treatments can take several years or they may be completed much more quickly.