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Immunotherapy (Allergy Shots)
You should always consult with a Board Certified Allergist before beginning a program of allergy shots. Board-certified allergists are specially trained to develop a customized formula for each patient.
Am I a candidate for immunotherapy?
It is often impossible to avoid the allergens that can cause allergy symptoms and medications don't always provide enough relief. Immunotherapy, or allergy shots may provide the long-term relief that allergy sufferers are looking for and significantly improve quality of life. Research has clearly demonstrated the effectiveness of immunotherapy for both allergies and asthma.
How often do I receive these injections?
Allergy shots are given weekly for the first 4-6 months while the dose is slowly increased. Once the patient has reached his or her maintenance dose the frequency becomes every other week for three visits and then monthly. Consistency is important.
Can I have a reaction to my allergy shots?
Yes, although it is rare to have a severe reaction. We require our patients to remain in our office for 30 minutes after every allergy injection. Most allergic reactions will occur within 30 minutes after an exposure. Our medical staff is specially trained to manage an allergic reaction if it were to occur. Continuing on your anti-histamine will help with any local swelling or redness at the injection site.
This will be discussed thoroughly with you if you and your physician decide that allergy shots are appropriate for you.
Stinging Insect Allergy
Some people are allergic to insect stings. This means that their immune systems overreact to the venom injected by a stinging insect.
Insects to which people can have allergic reactions include members of the Hymenoptera class:
Symptoms may include only redness, swelling and itching at the site of the sting. Some people have large local reactions (large amount of swelling contiguous to the site of the sting). Unfortunately, more serious and potentially life threatening reactions called anaphylaxis can occur. Symptoms can include hives, swelling, trouble breathing, loss of consciousness and sometimes death.
To avoid stinging insects, it is important to learn what they look like and where they live. If you live in the south, the yellow jacket or the fire ant are the most likely insects to sting you. Honey bees are the culprits in California and fire ants are present in the south west. Children and adults are approached differently depending on their reactions. If you are a child and have just skin reactions such as hives or swelling, research has shown that you are at little risk for more life threatening reactions and you will not benefit from allergy shots for insects. Conversely, adults with more than a local reaction should be evaluated for insect allergy and consider venom immunotherapy if they are allergic.
Contrary to popular belief, an individual's pattern of reactivity to a sting usually repeats itself. If you develop hives only after being stung, the same will happen if stung again in the majority of patients. There is generally not a progressive worsening of symptoms with future stings. All adults with anaphylactic reactions and children who have more than skin reactions should be evaluated by a board certified allergist.
At least 40 deaths occur annually in the United States from reactions to insect stings. A severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis occurs in 0.5 to 5% of the U.S. population as a result of insect stings.
Venom immunotherapy prevents systemic reactions in stinging insect-sensitive patients 97% of the time.
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