Aimee Altschul-Latzman, M.D.

Adult and Pediatric Allergy
Asthma & Immunology
203.955.1461

Answering Your Questions About Allergen Immunotherapy

WHY?

When you are unable to avoid exposure to allergens which cause your problems, or when allergy medications fail to control symptoms or cause side effects, allergy injections are recommended.

HOW DO THEY WORK?
Instead of just relieving symptoms like medications do, immunotherapy causes your body to build protective antibodies much as do tetanus or flu injections. Eventually your body may produce enough protection to block allergic reactions to the substances that trigger your reactions.

WHAT ALLERGIES DO ALLERGY SHOTS TREAT?

Allergy shots work well for patients who have environmental (pollens, dust, molds, pet danders) allergies which cause them to suffer from allergic rhinitis (also called nasal allergies or hay fever), allergic conjunctivitis (eye allergies), and/or allergic asthma.  They are also indicated to treat insect sting allergy.

ARE ALLERGY SHOTS FOR EVERYONE?

No.  Allergy shots may not be good for you if you have severe asthma or heart problems.  I f you are taking beta blockers for heart problems, you can not receive allergy shots.  Allergy shots are not indicated for children under 5 years old.  You should not begin allergy shots when you are pregnant.  However, if you have been taking allergy shots for some time and become pregnant, talk to the doctor.  You are usually able to continue taking your allergy shots.

DO ALLERGY SHOTS HURT?

You can be comforted by the fact that the injections that you receive as part of immunotherapy are smaller and less painful than the deep intramuscular shots often needed to administer immunizations and other types of medication.  They are small needles injected into the skin instead of the muscle.  While nobody is ever thrilled about the option of receiving allergy shots, most quickly learn that receiving these injections beats the allergy symptoms they will suffer from without them.

HOW OFTEN?
Since allergy injections contain the identical material causing your symptoms, the dose typically starts weekly with dilute material and builds gradually to your maintenance dose. At that time your doctor will assess your progress to determine how often you will need injections thereafter. If you are doing well, the frequency is decreased to every two weeks, then every three weeks, and eventually every four weeks for three to five years.

HOW SOON WILL YOU SEE RELIEF?
Often patients state they have moderate relief from symptoms as early as three to four months into treatment. In the meantime, you continue to take medications to help control your symptoms.

HOW DO YOU ARRANGE FOR AN INJECTION?
Call the office to schedule your injections. We will give you a list of our injection hours.  You can schedule your injections at convenient times for several weeks in advance. You must remain in the office for 30 minutes following your injections in case a systemic reaction to the injections occurs. The nurse will check your arm before you leave.  We will also prescribe an epipen for you and recommend that you bring oral Benadryl and your epipen with you on the days of your allergy injections.  This just provides you with additional protection in the rare event of a systemic reaction occurring after you leave the office.

WHAT SHOULD YOU EXPECT FOLLOWING AN INJECTION?
Since you are being treated with substances to which you are allergic, there is always a possibility that you may react. You might experience a local reaction in which your arm becomes swollen, warm and itchy at the site of infection.
If this occurs and becomes uncomfortable later, you may apply ice, use hydrocortisone cream, and take an oral antihistamine. If you have a local reaction the size of a quarter, or lasting longer than a few hours, be sure to inform the nurse before your next injection so the dose can be adjusted accordingly.

On rare occasions, generalized itching, increased allergy symptoms and/or chest tightness may occur. If this should happen, you should immediately take your Benadryl and use your epipen if necessary.  You can then call the office for advice or, if necessary, return to the office immediately, or call 911.

WHAT IS THE COST OF IMMUNOTHERAPY?

If we participate with your insurance plan, these charges will be submitted directly to your carrier.  Immunotherapy is usually covered by your insurance plan.  However, your insurance often requires that you pay a copay for each visit.  You can check with your insurance plan to confirm your responsibility. 

GENERAL INFORMATION

Please inform us of all medications you are taking, especially blood pressure medication and eye drops. As your immunotherapy treatment continues, always advise the nurse of any new medications you are taking.

*Notify nurse if arm swelling, redness or increased allergic symptoms followed your last allergy injection.

*If you have cold symptoms or increased allergy symptoms such as hives, wheezing, cough or increased nasal congestion, notify the office. We usually do not give injections in these situations.  We can always see you for an urgent office visit instead, if necessary.

*Avoid strenuous exercise for one hour before and for two hours following an injection.

*Avoid such activities as mowing grass or working areas where there would be increased exposure to pollens on days of injections if you have pollen allergies.

*Weekly visits for about 7 months. After approximately 7 months your appointments will be every 4 weeks for 3- 5 years.

*Patient needs to stay in the office for 30 minutes after each injection so the nurse can monitor any reactions.

*You can continue to take your allergy medications if needed while you are getting allergy injections.

*Do not come for an allergy injection if you are feeling ill. If necessary call the office for an appointment with the doctor. 

© Allergy & Asthma Consultants of Fairfield County
Adult and Pediatric Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

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