How do allergy injections work?Allergy injections (also called immunotherapy) are administered over a period of time (usually 3 – 5 years) and can reduce attacks quite significantly, or you may even feel that they have completely stopped. However, it is possible that any relief or cessation will not be permanent, although in some reported cases, after a long period of time, symptoms may completely vanish long term and sufferers will not experience the problems that caused them to seek treatment in the first place, but this is comparatively rare. Once the cause of the allergy has been defined, your doctor will begin a course of immunotherapy with you, which in the beginning normally involves two injections per week. The injections involve a small amount of the exact allergen or allergens that is or are causing you the problems, with the intention of building up your immunity to those specifics. The amount of allergen/s is ramped up over a defined amount of time to continue to build that immunity. This period of time is called ‘desensitisation’. Your doctor will have assessed how much dosage will be needed as time goes on and increase accordingly, but with longer gaps between each injection. Three to five years may seem a very long time, but this is necessary to build up the immunity to optimum level, in order for symptoms to decrease and make life bearable again.
Are there any side effects?There should only be a few potential side effects, but nothing life-threatening. Normally your doctor will ask you to stay in the waiting room for an agreed period to ensure that nothing untoward ensues. However, in extreme cases, more dangerous reactions may occur, which is why the waiting period is requested from your doctor. There are a few quite normal reactions that may occur during the waiting time or up to a few hours afterwards. These are pretty much localised, such as:
- Redness or inflammation
- Slight swelling
- Itchiness or irritation on the site of the injection
- Incessant sneezing, congested nasal passages
- Swelling of the throat
- Tightness of chest and difficulty in breathing
I am scared of injections – is there an alternative?Maximum effect is gained by a controlled course of allergy injections. It does depend on exactly what you are allergic to. As the injections are done twice or even three times per week in the initial period, you may find that if you brave the first couple of weeks, you will become accustomed to them and stop being afraid! There are obviously oral medications that can help reduce allergic reactions, but unfortunately they don’t have the same effectiveness as a course of injections. Your doctor may have already tried implementing orally, before suggesting to you that you undergo the injection process.
Can any allergy be treated with injections?Unfortunately not. Allergic reaction to the following can be treated by injection:
- Seasonal allergies such as hay fever which can be caused by pollen from trees, grasses and other garden growth
- Allergy to certain insect bites or stings (wasps are a classic example)
- Allergy to domestic growth such as dust mites, mould and pet hair. This type of allergy is suffered continually throughout the year and not restricted to just a few months when pollen is rife in the air outdoors