Do Allergy Shots Work? A Guide To Immunotherapy

By Tiffany Tseng. May 7th 2016

When spring and autumn comes around, it also means the arrival of the uncomfortably familiar itchy, watery eyes accompanied by never ending sneezes and itchy skin. If you are tired of constantly popping anti-allergy pills, finding an alternative immunotherapy treatment may be an option for you. Read on for information about allergy shots for seasonal allergy relief.

What Are Allergy Shots?

Considered one of the most effective immunotherapy treatments towards allergy relief, allergy shots can effectively condition a person’s body to become immune to what it used to react to. The therapy helps ward off allergies by injecting the body with controlled, gradually increasing amounts of the specific allergen, until tolerance is built against it.

For example, if someone is allergic to flower pollen, the therapy may consist of shots laced with pollen in increasing amounts to increase the body’s defense against pollen; the idea is similar to that of receiving the flu vaccine.

How It Works

Allergy shots are usually administered in an immunologist’s office (or a licensed physician), and can consist of several shots in one visit. The patient will be asked to stay in the office for 30 minutes or so after administering the dosage to make sure there are no serious reactions to the therapy. At the end of treatment, the patient will have minimal reactions to what he or she used to be allergic to.

Benefits Of Allergy Shots

Allergy shots can be a great investment for some in the long run, especially if health insurance can cover some of the cost. Here are some reasons to possibly get allergy shots:

  • You have asthma. For some people, an allergic reaction can quickly become fatal, or can cause life-threatening asthma that needs to be treated immediately. Investing in immunotherapy that consists of allergy shots can be a wise choice to protect a person’s life.
  • Allergies that decrease quality of life. If your allergies are so serious that you cannot perform day to day activities, allergy shots can rescue you from such hardship. There is nothing worse than trying to get through a tough work day with itchy, watery, swollen eyes that refuse to stay open.
  • Save money in the long run. If you feel like you are spending a good chunk of your paycheck on allergy medication, allergy shots can be a great investment for the long run. Take a moment and do some simple math: can all those antihistamines you purchased in the past for the sake of allergies cover the cost of allergy shots? If the answer is yes, it may be time to move on to allergy shots after consulting with your physician.
  • Rush immunotherapy becoming available. Traditionally, a full course of therapy involving shots for immunotherapy can take a very long time, even years. For those that fear needles, this can seem torturous. However, rush immunotherapy, which drastically shortens the visits needed for injections, are becoming vastly available, hence shortening the overall time for therapy. Be sure to consult your doctor to see if this is right for you, as rush immunotherapy consists of getting as much as 9 to 10 shots per visit, and can put you at greater risk for a negative reaction.

Considerations For Allergy Shots

Here are some considerations for allergy shots:

  • People who fear needles. Those who have a deep, profound fear of needles (also known as trypanophobia) should not opt for allergy shots. All in all, the benefits of using other forms of allergy medication can outweigh the effects of trypanophobia, as it takes multiple visits and injections to complete the therapy.
  • People who have food allergies. Allergy shots tend to not be as effective for food allergies. Consult your doctor for other possible options on management for food allergies.
  • Time commitment. Immunotherapy via injection can be a huge time commitment for some, since each person reacts differently to therapy. It can take up to one whole year before any difference is felt, and up to five years or more to maintain the body’s heightened tolerance for allergens. For some people, such time commitment may just not be possible.


There are generally 2 phases to the treatment:

  • The build-up phase: This phase is used to allow the body to build-up tolerance for the allergen. It can take as long as 12 months to see results during this phase.
  • The maintenance phase: This phase is used to maintain the body’s defense. It can take an additional 3 to 5 years after the build-up phase to see results in the maintenance phase.

If you are deciding to undergo allergy shots for immunotherapy, be sure to consult your doctor to see if it is right for you. It may be a wise investment for your health in the long run.


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