Updated:

April 23, 2021

Allergy Shots: Everything You Need To Know

While seasonal allergies and year-round allergies run rampant across the country, many who suffer are looking for lasting relief. One option is allergy shots, also known as allergen immunotherapy, which builds up immunity against your allergies.

How Do Allergy Shots Work?

Allergy shots consist of a series of injections containing the things to which you’re allergic; aimed to provide long-term immunity against your allergies.

At first, a minimal dose of the allergen will be used, then slowly increasing with each shot over time. The goal is to create immunity or desensitization to the allergen.

Are Allergy Shots Effective?

Yes, allergy shots are specifically effective in treating nasal allergies, sinus allergies and allergy-induced asthma. Allergy shots work for those problematic pollens, animal dander, dust mites, mold, and cockroaches. Allergy shots typically give noticeable relief in the first year, but it’s important to stay on them for at least five years for permanent immunity. Studies show that 85% of people will achieve long-term immunity.

It’s very common for those on allergy shots to use fewer allergy medications, antihistamines and allergy related medications or even stop using them at all together.

How Long Do Allergy Shots Take to Work?

It can vary from patient to patient. Some patients find symptom relief in their build up phase after just a few months and some can take up to a year. If you’re concerned your allergy shots aren’t working, make sure to schedule a follow up appointment with your allergist.

Are Allergy Shots Safe?

Allergy shots are considered a safe form of allergy treatment. The most common side effects are minimal redness, swelling or itching at the injection site. Overall body reactions, such as hives, asthma symptoms, and low blood pressure, are not expected. There is a possibility of a more serious reaction such as anaphylaxis, but that is also rare. However, it’s for this reason that shots are given in a doctor's office where emergency care is readily available. 

At What Point Should I Seriously Consider Allergy Shots?

While recommendations on when to get allergy shots may vary, in general, you and your doctor may want to consider them when:

  • You need medication for four months out of the year or more.
  • You are allergic to something you cannot avoid, such as cat, dog, horse, dust, etc.
  • When medications do not control the symptoms.
  • You want a treatment to get rid of your allergy rather than taking medicine for the rest of your life.
  • You have another condition that is being affected by allergic rhinitis, such as asthma.
  • You want to lower the chance that you will develop asthma.

Things to Know Before Starting Allergy Shots  

Before beginning allergy shots, you may want to consider these factors:

  • Allergy shots may cost no more than the combined cost of medicine, doctor and emergency room visits, as well as missed days of school or work over several years.  
  • Allergy shots are not a quick fix. The length of treatment is at least five years. The treatment end date will be determined based on your allergy symptoms and in discussion with your allergist.
  • Results aren’t immediate. For some, it can take up to a year for symptoms to improve. 
  • Consistency is key. A typical schedule is weekly allergy shots during the buildup phase, and then it can be spaced out to every two to four weeks once you have reached the maintenance phase. If the treatment schedule would be challenging for you to follow, you may want to think about other options, like allergy drops or ExACT Immunoplasty.

Are you interested in trying allergy shots? Our allergy experts at Aspire Allergy & Sinus are ready to work with you and your family to help you find the best solution for your allergy symptoms. Book an appointment to come see us today!

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About The Author:

William Storms, MD

Dr. William Storms has practiced in Colorado Springs & Pueblo since 1975 and is a past Clinical Professor at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. He practices clinical allergy and clinical research at The William Storms Allergy Clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado.