Allergy Immunotherapy (Allergy Shots)

Allergy immunotherapy (AIT) (i.e., allergy shots, allergy injections, allergy desensitization, allergy hyposensitization) is a time-tested efficacious treatment option for disorders caused by the sensitization to environmental allergens such as dust mites, molds, pollens, pets, and/or cockroaches. It is 80-85% effective in reducing symptoms from allergic rhinitis (i.e., hay fever), asthma, and/or allergic conjunctivitis (i.e., eye allergies). Venom immunotherapy (VIT) on the other hand is 97% effective in preventing serious life-threatening reactions after stinging insect venom allergen exposures to honey bees, wasps, yellow jackets, white-faced hornets, yellow-faced hornets, and/or fire ants). Venom immunotherapy has been the standard of care for individuals allergic to stinging insect venoms for the past several decades.  The term immunotherapy may be used to denote the general concept of both allergy immunotherapy and venom immunotherapy. The process of immunotherapy entails injections with proteins extracted from allergens at regular intervals with increasing incremental doses. The treatment begins with very small doses in order to minimize the risk of adverse reactions. As the treatment continues, the doses are gradually escalated until a maintenance dose is attained.

This process helps allergic individuals develop a tolerance to the allergens they have been previously sensitized to. This procedure is especially useful when dealing with allergens which are usually difficult to avoid such as dust mites, molds, pollens, and/or stinging insects. Patients on maintenance doses of both allergy immunotherapy and venom immunotherapy should be able to resist allergic reactions. The reduction of the severity of symptoms should lead to a reduction of the need for medications. Medications may be effective but only offer temporary relief from allergy symptoms. Unlike immunotherapy, medications do not alter the underlying sensitizations of an individual.

In essence, immunotherapy is a desensitization process that helps the allergic individual develop tolerance to the substance(s) that he or she has been previously sensitized to.  Whereas most allergy medicines mask the symptoms of allergies, allergy injections treat the underlying cause and modulate the immune response.  This results in an increased resistance to the offending allergens.  This process is comparable to vaccinations with bacterial and viral products which help individuals resist infections with those microorganisms.

Allergy shots can cause 2 types of adverse reactions. The more common “local’ reactions generally manifest themselves as redness, itching, and/or swelling at the site of injection. “Systemic” or “generalized” reactions are not common but if they occur, they can result in hives, a drop in blood pressure, wheezing, shortness of breath, swelling of lips, tongue, etc. It is rare however to have life-threatening reactions such as anaphylaxis after allergy injections. Occasionally reactions begin as a local reaction and then progress to systemic reaction.
Allergy immunotherapy is currently being researched as a possible treatment option for numerous food allergies.  The preliminary results of studies regarding immunotherapy with peanuts are very promising.  Although there is currently no FDA-approved protocol for immunotherapy for food allergies, it is hoped that we can offer this treatment to individuals with food allergies in the near future. For now, the most effective treatment for food allergies is to avoid the food and any cross-reacting foods. Note that despite there not being any immunotherapy given by injection for the treatment of peanut allergies, there is now a method to undergo peanut desensitization to peanuts by way of an oral route. Palforzia is a peanut allergen powder prescribed by board certified allergists that is used to desensitize patients from ages 4-17 who have a confirmed allergy to peanuts.

Black & Kletz Allergy has 3 convenient locations with on-site parking located in Washington, DC, McLean, VA (Tysons Corner, VA), and Manassas, VA. The Washington, DC and McLean, VA offices are Metro accessible and we offer a free shuttle that runs between the McLean, VA office and the Spring Hill metro station on the silver line. The board certified allergy doctors at Black & Kletz Allergy are extremely knowledgeable regarding the diagnosis and treatment of environmental allergies (i.e., allergic rhinitis, hay fever), eye allergies (i.e., allergic conjunctivitis), insect sting allergies, asthma, food allergies, eczema (atopic dermatitis), hives (i.e., urticaria), generalized itching (i.e., pruritus), swelling episodes (i.e., angioedema), contact dermatitis, eosinophilic esophagitis, medication allergies, and immune disorders. To schedule an appointment, please call any of our offices or you may click Request an Appointment and we will respond within 24 hours by the next business day. We have been servicing the greater Washington, DC metropolitan area for many years and we look forward to providing you with excellent state-of-the-art allergy care in a welcoming and professional environment.