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Category Archives: PET ALLERGIES

Allergy Shots – A Brief Overview

Allergy shots are synonymous with other terms such as allergy immunotherapy, allergy injections, allergy desensitization, and allergy hyposensitization. The allergy shots Gainesville, VA residents rely upon are the same allergy shots that have been given in the U.S. for over 100 years. They have been an important method of preventing and/or diminishing allergy symptoms in tens of millions of individuals over the last century.

Allergy shots can be given to almost any person and are given to any individual over the age of 2. Usually, however, most children do not begin allergy injections earlier than 4 years of age. They can be given to children, teenagers, adults, and the elderly. They can be continued in a pregnant individual as well as in a person who is nursing, as long as it is confirmed by the patient’s obstetrician and/or pediatrician of the nursing baby.

Allergy injections are given to patients with allergic rhinitis (i.e., hay fever)allergic conjunctivitisasthma, and venom hypersensitivity (i.e., allergy to stings of bees, wasps, hornets, yellow jackets, and/or bites from fire ants). The idea behind them is to get to the root of the problem, as opposed to treating the symptoms of allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis, and asthma. By receiving allergy injections, one’s body develops antibodies that help prevent the allergen (e.g., dust mites, molds, pollens, pets, cockroaches, venom) from causing the unwanted allergy and/or asthma symptoms.

Allergy immunotherapy is useful and may be considered when one is allergic to substances that cannot be avoided. They are also used in individuals that have failed over the counter therapy and/or prescription medications. There are other individuals that do not want to take medications on a daily basis. Others have very severe symptoms and develop secondary problems (e.g., sinus infections, ear infections, bronchitis, asthma) from untreated or sub-par treatment from medications. Many people cannot deal with the side effects of many of the allergy medications. Still others would like to treat the cause of the allergy rather than just treat the symptoms of allergy and/or asthma.

During allergy immunotherapy, very small doses of the allergens that the individual is allergic to are administered subcutaneously (i.e., just under the skin into the fat) of the arm(s) either once a week or twice a week, depending on the patient’s choice. Obviously, if the individual receives the injections more frequently (i.e., twice a week vs. once a week), he or she will get through the build-up process twice as fast. Each dose is increased in strength over the build-up period which at Black & Kletz Allergy is usually 18 doses. Therefore, the maintenance dose (i.e., top dose) is reached in 9 or 18 weeks depending if the individual gets his or her build-up shots twice a week or once a week respectively. Once the maintenance dose is reached, the individual can spread out the frequency of the injections to up to every 4 weeks. Note that many people get their shots more frequently throughout the year depending on their “bad” seasons, such as Spring and Fall which in the Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, and Maryland metropolitan area is very common. Others need their injections more frequently throughout the year since they have perennial symptoms which may require them to get the injections more frequently, depending on their severity of allergy and/or asthma symptoms. The average length of time someone is on the allergy shots Gainesville, VA residents receive from Black & Kletz Allergy ranges between 3-5 years. It is important to note that allergy shots to venoms have a different build-up and maintenance schedule.

The effectiveness of allergy injections is excellent. They have been shown work in 80-85% of individuals taking them. Venom immunotherapy is effective in over 90% of patients receiving them. Allergy injections may also prevent the development of asthma in children with allergic rhinitis. They help to prevent the inflammation that occurs in a typical allergic encounter. Normally when an individual is exposed to a known allergen, many chemicals such as histamine and leukotrienes are released into the bloodstream of the patient. These chemicals are responsible for producing the miserable symptoms of allergies, and in addition, cause inflammation to occur. The allergy shots Gainesville, VA patients receive help the body naturally produce antibodies that will help prevent this process from occurring and thus the individual suffers much less or not at all and has much less or no development of allergic inflammation.

There are essentially no side effects of allergy shots, however there are two risks. The first being the chance of having a local reaction at the site of the injection which may include localized itchiness, redness and/or swelling. The second risk is that of a systemic reaction such as developing generalized itching, hives, swelling, wheezing, abdominal cramps, drop in blood pressure, which potentially can be serious. For that reason, although very rare to occur, it is important to wait 30 minutes in our office after an allergy injection, so that we could treat you with epinephrine and/or Benadryl if necessary. Despite the rarity of a systemic reaction, it can occur and it is necessary to wait the 30 minutes after an injection. A longer wait time is needed for individuals receiving venom immunotherapy.

In summary, allergy shots are a very effective treatment modality for individuals with allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis, asthma, and/or venom hypersensitivity. As mentioned above, they have been given in the U.S. for over a century and can be given to all ages from young children to the elderly. The board certified allergists at Black & Kletz Allergy have been administering allergy shots for over 50 years. We have one office location in Washington, DC and 2 offices in Northern Virginia with one office in McLean, VA (Tysons Corner, VA) and another in Manassas, VA. We have on-site parking at all 3 office locations and the Washington, DC and McLean, VA offices are Metro accessible. There is a free shuttle that runs between the McLean office and the Spring Hill metro station on the silver line. If you suffer from allergies, asthma, sinus problems, hives, swelling episodes, and/or immunological conditions, please call our office to schedule an appointment or you can click Request an Appointment and we will respond within 24 hours by the next business day. Black & Kletz Allergy prides ourselves in providing high quality allergy and asthma care in a professional, inviting, and friendly environment.

Pet Allergy: What You Should Know

The two most common pet allergies in the United States are cats (20% of the population) and dogs (10% of the population).  Dogs, however, are the most common pet, followed by cats.  There has been an upward trend in the U.S. in the number of household pets with almost 70% of households having at least one pet.  Of course, besides dogs and cats, other common pets include birds, rodents (i.e., hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, chinchillas, mice, etc.) reptiles (i.e., lizards, snakes, turtles, etc.), rabbits, ferrets, horses, hermit crabs, spiders, and fish.  Horses, unlike the other pets mentioned above, do not live in people’s homes, but can be quite allergenic.

One can be allergic to any animal, but clearly the most common indoor pet allergies are cats and dogs.  For the purpose of this blog, we will talk exclusively about cats and dogs.  If you would like to see more information about allergies to other types of pets, please visit our website, www.bkallergy.com , click “SERVICES,” and then click the 4th bullet which is a link entitled “Pet Allergies.”

When an individual is “allergic” to a pet, they are in fact “allergic” to particular proteins that are produced by that animal.  For example, the proteins that cause most of the misery suffered by people who are allergic to cats are designated “Fel d 1” and “Fel d 4.”  Likewise, in individuals that are allergic to dogs, the major protein involved is called “Can f 1.”  Most proteins that cause allergies in any household pet tend to be concentrated in the pet’s dander, urine, saliva, and/or feces.

The dander (from the skin of an animal) tends to be a big problem with most pets.  In cats, the dander tends to “stick” to things such as clothing, walls, carpeting, bedding, etc. and therefore can and is “transported” from the home to other places that people go to, such as their workplace.  If Fel d 1 protein is measured on a cat owner’s clothing or their upholstered chair at work, it is likely to be found.  In addition, since the proteins stick to the walls of the cat owner’s home, it takes months for the proteins responsible for causing an allergic reaction to diminish to non-detectible levels, despite a thorough cleaning of the home.  Since the protein is also found in urine, cat litter boxes are a rich source of the proteins.  In dogs, luckily the protein Can f 1 is not as “sticky” as the cat proteins, but still can stick to clothing, bedding, etc.

As a general rule, it is advisable not to have a pet if one is allergic to it.  However, despite common sense, most people still opt to either acquire a pet or to keep an existing pet that they have had even if they cause bothersome allergy symptoms.  Even though this is not advised, it is understandable since a pet can cause great joy in one’s life and becomes a member of the family!

One major misconception is that there are “hypoallergenic” cats and dogs.  While some people feel that

they do better around short-haired cats or around dogs that do not shed like poodles, most scientific studies do not support this phenomena.

One can take some measures to reduce their exposure to the allergens that cause pet allergies.  Brushing your cat or dog frequently and bathing your cat or dog often will help reduce the levels of cat and proteins.  It is also advisable to prevent the cat or dog from entering your bedroom.

The symptoms of pet allergies are similar to any other type of environmental allergy.  The symptoms can include any or all of the following:  sneezing, runny nose, stuffy nose, itchy/watery/red puffy/eyes,

post-nasal drip, itchy skin, hives, wheezing, chest tightness, coughing, and/or shortness of breath.

The board certified allergists at Black and Kletz Allergy can help you diagnose whether you have a pet allergy by simple tests which involve a thorough history and physical examination as well as skin tests and/or blood tests.  In addition to avoidance measures, there a number of medications that can be tried to try to alleviate your symptoms of pet allergies.  These medications can be in the forms of tablets, nasal sprays, eye drops, creams, inhalers, and/or injections.  Since pet allergies are a perennial (year-round) problem, many patients find allergy shots (allergy immunotherapy) extremely effective in preventing and/or diminishing their pet allergy symptoms.  Allergy shots can be administered to children, pregnant women, and adults and have been used for over a century.

If you would like to have a consultation with us regarding your pet allergies (or other type of allergies), please call us or use our website to “Request An Appointment” and we will get back to you by the next work day.  Black and Kletz Allergy has been serving the Washington, DC metropolitan area including Maryland and Northern Virginia for more than 50 years.