Allergy Shots: How Do They Work?

Allergy Shots: How Do They Work?

Your muddling through the days with never-ending allergy symptoms. Your doctor recommends allergy shots as an effective treatment method, but you’re wondering, ‘How do they work?’

“For seasonal and year-round allergies, allergy shots are the most effective treatment method — period,” says Kelly Allred Metz MD, an allergist with Group Health.

When Should I Try Allergy Shots?

When traditional treatment methods have been exhausted, your doctor might recommend trying allergy shots. “Patients are recommended to be on them for three to five years, so the duration is long, but the longer you stay on them, the greater the chance you will experience prolonged benefits,” Dr. Metz says.

How Are Allergy Shots Effective?

Allergy shots work by regularly exposing your body to the allergen(s) you are allergic to. The allergist administers them and for the first six to seven months, a shot is given one to two times a week. “After the shot is given, the patient will wait in the office for 30 minutes so we can make sure there isn’t a reaction,” Dr. Metz explains. 

Shots are administered into the fat, not muscle, by a very small needle, meaning there is no pain when it's administered. 'If anything, they can be itchy, since they are an allergen," Dr. Metz explains.

Each incremental dose increases in either volume or concentration until you reach a maintenance dose which is given once a month. Over time, as your body is exposed to a higher concentration of allergen(s) over a prolonged period, you become desensitized to the allergen, relieving symptoms. 

“If you get allergy shots for a year, and then stop, there is no harm, you will likely resensitize to the allergen much more quickly than if shots were continued for the recommended 3-5 years.” Dr. Metz says.

What If I Have Indoor and Outdoor Allergies?

Allergy shots are effective on both indoor and outdoor allergens, including:

  • Cats
  • Dogs
  • Dust mites
  • Grass
  • Molds
  • Seasonal allergens
  • Trees
  • Weeds

While they are the most effective treatment option for allergies, relief is not immediate, and allergen desensitization takes time.

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Last Updated: May 07, 2014