Allergy shots, or subcutaneous immunotherapy, have been given for over a century for the treatment of allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis, allergic asthma, and atopic dermatitis. Allergy shots are also used for venom allergy, but they are not used for treating food allergies.
Allergy shots involve the administration of an allergen (such as pollens, pet dander, molds, and dust mites). This would seem to worsen allergy symptoms, but when allergens are injected in low doses, the immune system sometimes responds to the allergens similarly to how it responds to a vaccine.
The nuts and bolts of immunotherapy consist of giving small doses of an allergen that will not cause an allergic reaction, and gradually increasing the dose until larger amounts of the allergen can be tolerated.
Injections are initially given once or twice per week until a maintenance dose is reached. It may take 3 to 6 months to reach the maintenance dose.
Once reached, the maintenance dose will usually promote the resolution of most of a person’s allergy symptoms. At this point, allergen injections are given every two to four weeks for 3 to 5 years.
After receiving at least 3 years of immunotherapy, most patients continue to benefit for another 5 to 10 years or longer, even after the shots are stopped. If the shots are stopped prior to a total of 3 years, the allergic symptoms typically return more quickly.
Allergy Shots During Pregnancy
Allergic rhinitis and asthma can be significant problems during pregnancy, and allergy shots may be helpful in treating these issues.
Women who have already been receiving allergy shots before becoming pregnant may continue to benefit from these therapies.
Many women wonder if allergy shots are safe to be given during pregnancy.
Allergy shots can be continued during pregnancy, but it is not recommended to begin taking this treatment during pregnancy.
Typically, the dose of the allergy shots is not increased during pregnancy, and many allergists decrease the dose during pregnancy.
Some allergists recommend stopping allergy shots during pregnancy due to a risk of anaphylaxis and possible danger to the fetus.
If you are taking allergy shots and think you might become pregnant or are already pregnant, it is important that you discuss the risks and benefits of continuing your allergy shots during pregnancy with your allergist and your obstetrician.
Find out more about the basics of allergy shots.