The onset of spring brings the welcoming sounds of birds chirping in the morning and the sights of flowers blooming in the garden. But for those that suffer from seasonal allergies, these changes are anything but—sneezing, watery eyes, and itching are what's in store.
If seasonal allergies are something you experience every year, talk to your doctor about whether allergy immunotherapy is right for you.
What is Immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy is a type of medical therapy that works to change your body's immune response and stop it from reacting to known allergens. It works by lowering your immune response to commonly known allergens such as:
Gradually introducing a small amount of allergen to a patient either sublingually or via injectable helps strengthen your immune system making you less susceptible to the effects of a typical allergic response.
How is Allergic Immunotherapy Performed?
The two most common methods of allergic immunotherapy are:
- Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT)
Sublingual immunotherapy consists of allergens that are given either as liquid drops—placed under the tongue—or in the form of allergy tablets. It may sometimes be referred to as an oral vaccine.
- Subcutaneous Injection Immunotherapy (SCIT)
Subcutaneous immunotherapy, also commonly referred to as allergy shots, are injections given subcutaneously with a small needle. You'll receive multiple injections over a period of several weeks with a gradual buildup of allergen—this helps your immune system get used to the allergen and, as a result, make it less reactive when exposed to the allergen in question.
In order for allergic immunotherapy to be successful, you will be required to take the allergen either sublingually or subcutaneously for a three to five year duration or longer, based on your doctor's recommendation.
How is an Allergy Diagnosed?
You can experience an allergic reaction to different substances in the environment, your food, cosmetics, and more. Scheduling an appointment with a board-certified allergist or ENT physician can help in the accurate diagnosis and treatment that's individual to you.
In addition to taking note of your physical symptoms, overall health, and family history of allergy, your doctor may also recommend the following tests:
- Skin test
- Blood tests
- Elimination diet (for food allergies)
- Oral food challenge
Are Sublingual and Injectable Immunotherapy Treatment for Right for You?
Immunotherapy may be right for you if you experience severe to moderate allergy symptoms for more than half the year.
In addition, your doctor may consider you an ideal candidate for immunotherapy if:
- Your symptoms have not decreased with a previous treatment plan
- You experience side effects from your allergy medicines
- You've made changes to your environment and food and still experience allergic triggers
- You've had immunotherapy before and experienced an improvement
Immunotherapy Treatments with Sublingual and Injectables are Safe When Performed by a Board-Certified ENT Physician
While immunotherapy is generally a fairly safe medical treatment, there are a few associated risks with both injectable and sublingual allergy immunotherapy. The most common reactions are mild and involve:
- Localized reaction to the injection or oral drops
- Swelling at the site of application.
These symptoms are typically self-limiting and resolve over time without medical intervention. In more severe cases, patients may suffer from systemic reactions that result in sneezing, hives or wheezing, and chest tightness.