If you experience itchy, watery eyes and sneezing after visiting City Dog Market or spending time at Stonemountain Park, you probably have allergies. Unfortunately, there is no cure for allergies; however, there’s one method of helping your body build a tolerance to allergens in order to reduce symptoms: immunotherapy.
What Causes Allergies?
In order to understand immunotherapy, it’s important to first understand what causes allergy symptoms.
Your immune system works to protect your body from diseases, viruses and infections. But for the more than 50 million Americans with allergies, their immune system mistakes harmless substances such as pollen, pet dander, dust mites, certain foods, mold and insect stings as a dangerous intruder and overreacts.
In order to fight off the intruder, your immune system releases antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE), which causes your cells to release histamine. Histamine increases your mucus production and causes swelling and itching; this is what triggers your allergy symptoms.
How Does Immunotherapy Reduce Allergy Symptoms?
In principle, immunotherapy works the same way a vaccine does. Each dose, which may be administered in shot, drop or tablet form, contains a small amount of allergen extracts. The dose stimulates the immune system without prompting a major reaction.
Immunotherapy shots are administered in two phases: the buildup phase and the maintenance phase.
- The buildup phase. This phase lasts three to six months. During this time, you’ll receive a shot one to three times a week, with the dosage increasing slightly each appointment.
- The maintenance phase. This phase lasts three to five years, depending on how your body responds. At this point, you’ll receive a shot just once a month so that the results will last long-term.
Shots must be administered in an allergy clinic or other medical setting.
The FDA has approved immunotherapy tablets to treat allergies to:
- Timothy grass.
- Dust mites.
- A combination of five other grass species.
Allergy tablets are taken every three to seven days for about three years. Some tablets, like for treating hay fever, only need to be taken in the months before and during allergy season.
The first dose is administered in an allergy clinic, but all other doses can be taken at home. For more information or to schedule an appointment with an expert allergist to discuss immunotherapy options, call ENT of Georgia today!