Allergies are exaggerated reactions by your immune system to certain molecules. You can decrease this sensitivity by following specific immunization regimens. These consist of repeated administrations of very low doses of purified allergens. This strategy can be attempted in children, six years or older, in whom the nature of the allergen is known. This protocol can be considered if the symptoms of the allergy are severe or if conventional treatments are not effective or dangerous. It has already been proven to be effective for a number of allergens. However, individual responses can vary significantly.
Allergen immunotherapy is highly effective in inducing tolerance to stings of insects, such as bees and wasps. In subsequent sessions, small but progressively increasing doses of the venom are injected under the skin. The doctor finds the patient's highest possible safe dose after four to six months. This maintenance dose is administered every six to eight weeks, for three to five years. After the treatment has ended, most patients are still protected. The chance to develop a severe allergic reaction to a sting can drop from 60 to 5 percent.
Children who are allergic to grass pollen can benefit from shots. Treatment starts well before pollen season, usually in September or October. Administration methods include subcutaneous injections, tablets, drops, and sprays. The build-up phase can be long or short and the maintenance phase lasts from three to five years. A significant improvement of rhinitis symptoms is often already noticeable in the first season and even more so in the following seasons. However, for conjunctivitis symptoms, allergen immunotherapy is only moderately effective.
On average, allergy shots reduce asthma symptoms in one in three patients. However, one in nine people can develop a systemic reaction. For a severe local reaction, the chance is one in sixteen. The possibility of a negative reaction should be taken into account when considering this treatment. Although there are other allergies, such as food allergies, that could possibly benefit from immunotherapy, these treatment regimens have not yet been perfected to maximize effectiveness and minimize possible side effects. Consult your physician to gain more information.