Allergies are more than just a seasonal nuisance—they're a considerable health issue affecting millions. Allergies are one of the leading causes of chronic illness in the U.S., with more than 50 million Americans grappling with this immune response every year. Amid this alarming figure, an increasing number of adults are exploring targeted treatments to reclaim their comfort and health, prompting a closer look into allergy shots for adults.
With the onset of the allergy season, you might find yourself among the many adults who dread the arrival of pollen season. It's a familiar narrative—disrupted routines, uncomfortable symptoms, and a seemingly endless intake of antihistamines. This reality has triggered a growing interest in the field of allergen immunotherapy. In this article, we will delve into the benefits, considerations, and possible alternatives to allergy shots for adults to provide a comprehensive guide for those considering this form of treatment.
What Are Allergy Shots?
Allergy shots, also known as allergen immunotherapy, are a long-term treatment approach for treating allergies. They involve regular injections of tiny amounts of specific allergens to which an individual is allergic. Over time, these injections reduce the immune system's sensitivity to the allergens, thereby decreasing allergic symptoms.
This method aims to increase your tolerance to allergens, reducing the severity of your allergic reaction or providing long-term relief from your allergies.
Are They Effective for Adults?
Allergy shots can be remarkably effective for adults. They work by retraining the immune system to become less reactive to allergens, resulting in fewer and less severe allergic reactions over time. Allergy shots are particularly beneficial for adults who suffer from severe asthma or year-round allergies.
They are also effective for adults who find limited relief from traditional medications. Furthermore, for adults who experience side effects from allergy medications or want to avoid long-term medication use, allergy shots can provide an effective alternative.
The process begins with a series of regular injections containing small quantities of the allergen(s) causing the allergic reaction. The initial phase, known as the build-up phase, involves increasing doses of the allergen administered 1-2 times per week. This phase usually lasts 3-6 months. Following this, there's a maintenance phase where the frequency of the allergy shots decreases to about once a month.
Research shows that after a year of allergy shot treatment, many adults see a significant decrease in symptoms and their use of allergy medications. Further, after three to five years of treatment, some adults may no longer have significant allergic reactions to those allergens. Immunotherapy represents a potent tool in the arsenal against adult-onset allergies.
What Are the Benefits?
Allergies, from allergic rhinitis to dust mite allergies, can be a burdensome intrusion on daily life, but allergy shots provide a scientifically proven approach to not just manage, but potentially overcome these allergies. Below are a few of the benefits of allergy shots:
- Symptom reduction: The primary advantage of allergy shots is their ability to reduce allergy symptoms. Individuals with allergic rhinitis can expect fewer bouts of sneezing, watery eyes, and runny noses. Immunotherapy can decrease the frequency and intensity of allergic flare-ups for those battling allergies to pet dander, pollen, dust mites, or mold.
- Less medication: An allergy shot can reduce the need for daily allergy medications. This benefit extends beyond mere convenience, decreasing potential side effects and lowering long-term healthcare costs.
- Long-lasting relief: Unlike short-term solutions, allergy shots can offer lasting relief. After a full course of treatment, many adults find their allergic reactions markedly less severe, or in some instances, completely absent, improving their quality of life.
Potential Risks and Side Effects
While allergy shots can be highly effective in treating bothersome symptoms triggered by common allergens, they’re not without potential risks and side effects. It's crucial to understand these aspects to make an informed decision about the treatment.
Mild Side Effects
Usually, mild reactions to allergy shots occur shortly after the allergy shot has been given. These could include redness, swelling, or irritation at the injection site. Some individuals may also experience symptoms similar to their usual allergic responses to common allergens, such as sneezing, nasal congestion, or hives. Typically, these effects are temporary, subsiding within a few hours.
In rare instances, an allergy shot can result in a serious reaction called anaphylaxis. This condition manifests through symptoms such as wheezing, chest tightness, trouble breathing, rapid heartbeat, or dizziness. It's crucial to seek immediate medical attention if these symptoms occur. For this reason, allergy shots require waiting in the office for 30 minutes after each dose, where trained staff are prepared to manage a severe allergic reaction.
Although allergy shots work well for many adults, they may not be suitable for everyone. Those with severe asthma or cardiovascular problems might be advised against allergy shots due to elevated risks. Always engage in thorough discussions with your allergist about your medical history before initiating this form of treatment.
Easy & Painless Alternatives To Allergy Shots
While allergy shots provide a robust, long-term solution to allergies, they might not be the ideal choice for everyone. Here, we explore easy and painless treatment options that could help alleviate allergy symptoms:
Sublingual immunotherapy is an effective alternative to allergy shots. Sublingual immunotherapy is administered in the form of allergy drops or tablets under the tongue. Like shots, sublingual immunotherapy contains small amounts of the allergens that trigger your reactions, but they're delivered under the tongue. Sublingual immunotherapy is just as effective as allergy shots, but they are less likely to cause severe allergic reactions, so they can be safely taken from the comfort of home.
Since sublingual immunotherapy can be taken from home, this treatment can save a significant amount of time and money compared to allergy shots that require frequent trips to the doctor’s office for injections. Sublingual immunotherapy also doesn’t require uncomfortable needles, making them a popular alternative to allergy shots.
Nasal Steroid Sprays
These prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) sprays reduce inflammation in the nasal passageways. They can be very effective in managing symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, and mild nasal stuffiness. Regular use during allergy season can help keep symptoms at bay.
These medicines block the effects of a substance called histamine, which your body creates during an allergic reaction. Antihistamines can be effective at temporarily relieving symptoms like sneezing, itching, stuffy nose, and watery eyes. They're available in various forms, such as tablets, capsules, liquids, nasal sprays, and eye drops.
Decongestants offer temporary relief from nasal and sinus congestion by reducing the swelling and production of mucus in your nasal passages. They can be found in various forms, including tablets, liquids, nasal sprays, and drops.
Some treatments, like decongestants, might not be suitable for those on certain medications, including beta blockers or ACE inhibitors. It's essential to discuss with your healthcare provider about any potential interactions before starting new treatments.
Leukotriene modifiers, like montelukast (Singulair), are prescription medications that inhibit the action of leukotrienes, chemicals your body releases in response to an allergen. They can be particularly helpful in controlling severe allergies and are often used in combination with other allergy medications.
The most natural, but often challenging method to control allergies is to avoid exposure to allergens such as pollen, dust mites, animal dander, and mold. This could involve various strategies, such as staying indoors during high pollen times, using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters in your home, and using dust mite-proof covers on bedding and pillows.
Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT) is one of the best options for allergy treatment. SLIT offers a safe and effective way to build a tolerance to allergens, reducing symptoms over time. Our personalized SLIT treatment plans are designed to fit your specific needs and can be conveniently taken at home.
When To Talk To Your Doctor?
Discuss your specific situation with an allergist to determine if allergy immunotherapy, including sublingual immunotherapy, is suitable for you. They can provide personalized advice and develop a treatment plan tailored to your needs. It's advisable to discuss allergy immunotherapy with your doctor in the following situations:
- If you have moderate to severe rhinitis or allergic asthma that significantly affects your quality of life.
- If your allergy symptoms are not adequately controlled with OTC medications.
- If you have tried allergen avoidance strategies but still experience bothersome symptoms.
- If you have had adverse reactions to allergy medications and allergy shots.
- If you want long-term relief from allergies and are willing to commit to the allergy treatment plan.
Candidates for sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) include:
- People allergic to multiple triggers such as pets, pollen, and dust mites.
- Those seeking long-term allergy relief without relying on medication.
- People whose symptoms are not effectively managed with OTC medications.
- People who have experienced adverse reactions to allergy medications.
- Children aged 5 and above whose parents want to potentially prevent asthma development later in life.
- Anyone who prefers a non-invasive, convenient treatment option and wants to reduce dependence on allergy medication.
Take Our Allergy Assessment and Get Treatment Today
If you want long-term relief from your allergies, choose Wyndly. Our team of experts will identify your specific triggers and create a personalized treatment plan for your allergies. Take the first step toward effective allergy management by taking our quick online allergy assessment to begin your journey to a life free from allergy symptoms.