When used as a preventative treatment measure, allergy immunotherapy can assist a patient in becoming acclimated to a specific allergen, such as pollen, dust mites, or bee venom. During the treatment process, which can take several months, the patient is exposed to the allergen in small but increasing doses with the hope that, over time, he will develop immunity to the substance that caused his allergic reaction to it. This type of desensitization therapy allows the immune system to become less reactive when it eventually comes into contact with the allergen in question. Our allergists have years of experience administering this therapy.
After a controlled exposure to a substance, the symptoms of an allergic reaction are reduced, allowing the body to develop a resistance antibody against the substance in question. Patients should always consult with an allergist before beginning this type of therapy in order to determine what their allergic triggers are and to determine the most effective course of treatment for their specific allergies.
The treatment is done on a regular basis until a certain level of maintenance has been achieved. In most cases, tolerance to the allergen persists after immunotherapy has been completed. The long-term success rate, on the other hand, varies from person to person. In addition, the procedure is not entirely novel. Ancient cultures have known for centuries that administering small amounts of local honey to those suffering from pollen allergies could, on occasion, alleviate their symptoms, though the process was not precise.
Which Allergies Can Be Treated With Immunotherapy?
In the past, only allergies that were deemed not severe or potentially life-threatening were treated with tolerance-building immunotherapy. Because of advancements in medical technology, it has only been recently that dangerous allergies such as peanut and nut allergies have been successfully treated with the procedure. Some evidence suggests that, while immunotherapy is effective in treating existing allergies, it may also be effective in preventing the development of new allergies in some cases. Those who suffer from pollen allergies frequently find that the process is extremely beneficial. Although the treatment is not appropriate for every allergy out there, it is effective for quite a few of them.
- Insect venom, such as bee stings, or other common insect bites, can trigger a reaction
- Animal dander, such as cat and dog dander, or similar allergies
- Household environmental allergies, such as mold and mildew, or dust mites
- Pollen allergies, such as grass and ragweed
- Food allergies, and more recently, peanut allergies
Types of Treatment
Immunotherapy can take many different forms, depending on the type of allergy from which the patient suffers. Those who experience pollen allergies have discovered that more of the following processes are effective in alleviating their symptoms. Some types of allergies may respond well to certain types of immunotherapy, while others may not respond well to certain types of immunotherapy. The following are the most likely treatment regimens for those who suffer from pollen allergies:
As a form of allergy immunotherapy, allergy shots, also known as subcutaneous immunotherapy, are the most widely used and most effective method of treatment. This is the only treatment available that has the ability to alter the immune system, making it possible to prevent the development of new allergies and asthma attacks in susceptible individuals.
For those who would prefer not to have to endure allergy shots, this method of treatment involves placing a tablet under the tongue and allowing it to dissolve. It is the only form of this type of therapy currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Antihistamines and decongestants are used in this type of immunotherapy, which is one of the most common types of immunotherapy. It is used when the allergen is common enough to be encountered in everyday life and the symptoms of an immune response are severe. Other medications work by preventing the release of chemicals that are produced when an allergic reaction occurs in the first place.
Some other medications, such as an epi-pen, are intended to be administered on an as-needed basis, whereas others, such as a daily preventative regimen, are intended to be administered on a daily basis.
It will be determined by the severity of the allergy for each individual whether they will need to continue with the therapy and how risky it may be for them to do so. Allergic reactions to allergy shots or other forms of treatment are extremely rare, if at all. An allergist’s office equipped with epinephrine auto-injectors should be used for the procedure in case a serious reaction, known as anaphylaxis, occurs during the course of the procedure. Never leave the doctor’s office until the full 30 minutes have passed following the injection, and be aware that a reaction could occur several hours later.
Breathing difficulties, tightness in the throat, hives, and swelling are all common symptoms of anaphylaxis. They may also include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, among other symptoms. If any of these symptoms occur, administer the epinephrine auto-injector as soon as possible and seek emergency treatment.
Is the Treatment Permanent?
Current evidence also indicates that, once completed, the treatment is largely effective in reducing the severity of allergies in the patient and is mostly permanent. However, according to some reports, some patients with pollen allergies may experience a loss of immunity to the allergy and may be required to undergo a second course of treatment. This has occurred in some patients seeking treatment for pollen allergies, particularly when they relocate to a new area with a variety of pollen-producing plants. The benefits,  on the other hand, are widely believed to be long-lasting.
Patient Candidacy For Treatment
Not everyone is well suited to immunotherapy, even those who have similar allergies. There are numerous factors to consider before beginning any form of medical treatment, and the patient should discuss these considerations with their doctor before beginning any treatment.
The ideal candidate, on the other hand, will:
- Have completed the entire round of allergy testing in order to determine the full extent of trigger allergy symptoms
- Has an allergy to a substance that is difficult to avoid in one’s normal daily activities
- Has allergic symptoms that can make it difficult to function in daily life on a regular basis
- If you suffer from allergy symptoms that are difficult to control with allergy medication
- Have the ability to commit the amount of time necessary to complete immunization therapy
A Final Word
Allergies can be very disruptive to daily life. Immunotherapy is a proven method to help mitigate the affects of allergic reactions, especially during pollen season, when allergy sufferers are especially susceptible. Immunotherapy, when properly customized to the needs of the patient, can help mitigate uncomfortable reactions to allergens. New medical technology is constantly emerging in the field of allergy treatment, and we will likely see further advancements in the field of immunotherapy in the coming years for even more allergy types.