Allergy Immunotherapy modifies a person’s body immune response towards allergens, hence easing allergy symptoms. Allergy immunotherapy is performed by repeatedly delivering allergens to an allergic person in hope to change the body’s immune response and de-sensitized the body’s system towards the allergen. Allergy immunotherapy is effective against IgE-mediated allergy, and benefits in particular individuals with a limited type (1 or 2) of allergies.
How is Allergy Immunotherapy delivered to a person?
Allergy Immunotherapy Shots
Immunotherapy shots are delivered via injections in high dosed standardized vaccines containing the allergen every month. Over time, the dose is gradually increased for the body’s immune system to adapt. As there is a risk of unforeseen severe allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis, immunotherapy shots should only be given by a trained doctor or immunologist in a controlled setting clinic with standby resuscitation facilities available. The duration of Immunotherapy shots is usually 3-5 years.
Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT)
SLIT is emerging as an effective and safe alternative to Allergy Immunotherapy Shots. Furthermore, SLIT has the advantage of self-administration of medication by the patient himself at home. As the name suggests, sprays or tablets containing allergens are administered under the tongue daily.
The choice of whether considering immunotherapy shots vs sublingual immunotherapy can be determined by the patient’s preference with prudent guidance from the trained physician.
Who should consider Allergy Immunotherapy?
You can consider Allergy Immunotherapy if you are:
- Your allergy is related to a condition known as IgE-mediated allergy, with positive skin prick test or RAST blood test
- Inevitably exposed to the allergen
- You have tried conventional medical treatment without success
- You have a limited spectrum of allergies
- You are committed to trying immunotherapy for years
- You are aware of the risks and limitations of immunotherapy
Who are the contraindicated for Allergy Immunotherapy?
You should avoid Allergy Immunotherapy if:
- You have asthma which is poorly controlled
- You are taking beta-blockers for your heart condition or blood pressure control
- You have other immune system diseases
- You are less than 5-year old
- You are pregnant
Is Allergy Immunotherapy Effective?
Medical reviews have shown significant improvement in allergy symptoms with immunotherapy, with the reduction in requiring rescue medication, and general improvement of quality of life. Also, immunotherapy has shown long term benefits by modifying the underlying cause of allergy condition. There are several research studies that showed continue long-term benefit of reduction of allergy up to 7-8 years following discontinuation of immunotherapy.
Allergy Immunotherapy is a proven effective treatment for allergic conditions such as allergic rhinitis, asthma, insect sting allergy, and certain individuals with eczema in particularly allergic to airborne allergens such as house dust mite, and animal dander.
Is Allergy Immunotherapy safe?
The limitation of immunotherapy shots lies on the risk of possible systemic allergic reactions, such as anaphylaxis that can be fatal. Risks factors for systemic reactions include a history of previous systemic reactions, the presence of asthma, a history of high sensitivity allergen exposure.
SLIT is a safer option. SLIT is associated with localized symptoms such as itching and tingling of the tongue or mouth, tongue and lip swelling in 50% of patients. The symptoms usually resolve within 1-2 weeks after commencement of treatment.
Allergy Immunotherapy remains a novel, exciting, highly effective and promising area for both trained physicians and patients with allergy, seeking for long term control and remission of allergy. Speak to your doctor to understand further.