Pediatric and Adult Allergy Treatment
Allergy treatment involves a combination of modalities including medication, environmental controls and immunotherapy and Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT). Immunotherapy, commonly known as allergy shots, is a program that increases immunity to certain allergens that trigger allergy symptoms. While increasing immunity, it decreases your sensitivity to the substances that trigger your allergy symptoms when you are exposed to them. Immunotherapy by sublingual drops, commonly referred to as “allergy drops” is an individually tailored alternative program designed to desensitize you to those substances to which you are allergic. Your allergy tests results are used to create a mixture of substances to which you are allergic. Sterile extracts are prepared from allergy-producing substances such as pollens, molds, house dust, and animal danders according to thing to which you are allergic. These biological substances are then taken under the tongue in increasingly stronger doses until your maximum or maintenance dose has been achieved. Allergen immunotherapy involves administering increasing amounts of an allergen to a patient over several months. Immunotherapy has been shown to be effective in preventing the development of new allergies and, in children, preventing the progression of allergic disease from allergic rhinitis to asthma. Allergen immunotherapy can lead to the long-lasting relief of allergy symptoms after treatment is concluded.
Immunotherapy is only recommended for allergic rhinitis, asthma, conjunctivitis, and insect allergy. It is not a recommended treatment for food allergies. The decision to start immunotherapy is one made between patient and doctor. That decision should be based on the length and severity of seasons, how effective medications and environmental controls are, and the desire to avoid long term medication usage.
Allergen immunotherapy works like a vaccine. Your body responds to the injected amounts of a particular allergen, given in gradually increasing doses, by developing a tolerance to the allergen. As a result of your body's response to these immune changes, immunotherapy causes decreased, minimal or no allergy response when you are exposed to the allergen included in your allergy vaccine.
There are two phases to immunotherapy: a buildup phase and a maintenance phase. The buildup phase of treatment involves receiving injections with increasing amounts of the allergens that are customized for each patient based on individual skin testing results. Patients generally receive injections during this phase between one to two times a week, though more rapid buildup schedules may be used. The duration of this phase varies, but, generally, is between three and six months.
The maintenance phase begins when the effective therapeutic dose is reached. The effective maintenance dose will vary from patient to patient. It depends on the level of allergen sensitivity and the response to the immunotherapy buildup phase. Maintenance immunotherapy intervals generally range from two to four weeks.
The benefits of immunotherapy, in terms of reduced allergy symptoms, begin during the buildup phase but may take as long as a year on the maintenance dose. Improvement with immunotherapy is expected to be progressive during the treatment period. Effectiveness of immunotherapy seems to be related to the length of treatment and the dose of the allergen.
If immunotherapy is successful, maintenance therapy is generally continued for three to five years. Some patients will experience lasting remission while others may relapse after discontinuing therapy.
Allergy immunotherapy is a proven effective treatment for allergic rhinitis, allergic asthma, and insect allergies. Immunotherapy can lead to lasting remission of allergy symptoms. To schedule a consultation with one of our physicians, please call 770.740.1860.
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