Allergy immunotherapy is a natural treatment option for people with allergies. Doctors specially trained in how the immune system works (Allergists/Immunologists) can assess your allergies and prescribe an immunotherapy regimen specifically for you. The concept is to repeatedly show your immune system the things to which it is allergic so that it gets used to those things and no longer responds in a negative way. The end goal is to see your sneezing, sniffling, itching fade away. For most people this means eventually stopping expensive allergy medications and stopping immunotherapy after your prescribed treatment course is completed. The sooner you start, the sooner you can ditch the drugs and start feeling better. Let’s take a look at the top 5 reasons you should consider starting your personalized immunotherapy treatment experience yesterday (today works too).

1. You have options

We are not talking about your grandparents’ allergy shots. While allergy immunotherapy has been around for over a hundred years, the process has evolved and various ways of administering allergen have been developed. 

Extract manufacturers have standardized the amount of allergen in certain extracts. This allows doctors to provide consistent amounts of allergen in each prescription. Treatment schedules have been studied and modified to enable rapid build-up and shortened courses of treatment that induce long-lasting benefits for years after treatments are completed. Rather than being on life-long allergy shots, many people with allergies can now complete treatment in a matter of months to years.

Treatments can be administered in a way that is convenient for you. Traditional subcutaneous allergy immunotherapy (SCIT) shots are injections under the skin of the arm. They are given weekly or monthly in your doctor’s office and are typically covered by insurance. Sublingual (SLIT; under the tongue) drops or tablets can be done at home after tolerating the first dose in your doctor’s office. Both traditional allergy shots and sublingual drops or tablets require at least three years of treatment for long-lasting benefits. A newer intralymphatic injection (ILIT; ultrasound-guided lymph node injections) can be completed in only three injections over 8 weeks. This shortened treatment option provides long-lasting benefits similar to traditional forms of immunotherapy.

Research is ongoing to determine if there could be other convenient methods of allergen administration that could be effective, like by nose spray, skin patch, toothpaste, or lollipop.

2. It works

There are thousands of research studies showing effectiveness of SCIT and SLIT in reducing symptoms and medication use for allergic rhinitis, allergic asthma, eczema, and bee stings. These research studies have found that routinely administering specific allergen(s) to an allergic individual turns down their allergic response to that specific allergen(s). It also prevents development of new allergens and can prevent development of asthma in those predisposed. ILIT studies so far have focused on effectively treating allergic rhinitis.

Many people ask which form of immunotherapy works best. SCIT, SLIT, and ILIT all have studies showing their effectiveness when used as prescribed, at the proper dose and schedule. That being said, the best form of immunotherapy is different for each person. An Allergist can help decide which form works best for you based on your allergen profile, symptom history, personal and work schedules, insurance coverage, and budget.

3. It takes time to see results

If you want to feel better next spring, start now (fall or winter). When time is of the essence, ILIT offers the convenience of three injections over 8 weeks for a complete treatment. Benefits typically kick in within a few months. If home-based treatment is needed, SLIT is the answer. Easy daily dosing at home garners benefits within 6-12 months of treatment. When the old standard is more your style, you look forward to the social aspect of weekly visits to the Allergist’s office, or your golden insurance policy has you covered, SCIT is your best option. Weekly injections building up to monthly maintenance see patients feeling better within a year of starting treatment.

4. Ditch the drugs

Treating allergies with over-the-counter medications (OTC) is often a first step for many people with allergies. Pills, nose sprays, and eye drops are layered to attempt to stifle the puffy eyelids and itchy noses. OTC costs add up. For people with bee venom allergies that require yearly prescriptions for epinephrine, medication expense really becomes an issue.

Expenses aside, there are side effects of medication to consider like drowsiness from some antihistamines or nose bleeds from improper nasal medication use. Some nasal treatments for congestion can lead to dependence on treatment, and worsening congestion when you try stopping the treatment.

Consistency of treatment is another factor that is difficult to maintain when requiring multiple OTC and/or prescription medications. Many people do not like taking medication every day and worry about long term effects of drugs.

If you find yourself worrying about the cost or side effects of medication, or maybe annoyed having to take medications routinely, consider that it might be time to ditch the drugs. Allergy patients seeking to reduce symptoms, reduce medication use, and use more natural treatments have an option. Allergy immunotherapy can be the natural treatment bridge. With IT you can retrain your immune system and eventually stop medication.

5. Change your life

The number one phrase I hear from patients after completing a course of allergy immunotherapy is, “This has been life-changing!” People who had previously resigned themselves to suffering through their allergy symptoms can finally breathe again. They no longer need pricey medications to make it through the day. They can live their life without monitoring the weather or pollen counts.

If you have considered a course of allergy immunotherapy to treat your allergies, do not wait another day. The sooner you get started, the sooner you will be living life to the fullest. Talk to your doctor to find a trusted Allergist near you.