Charlottesville Allergy & Respiratory Enterprises
434-295-ASAP (2727) 1524 Insurance Lane, Suite B, Charlottesville, Virginia 22911

Allergen Immunotherapy (Allergy Shots) in Charlottesville

Immunotherapy (allergy shots) is based on a century-old concept that the immune system can be desensitized to specific allergens that trigger allergy symptoms. The earliest published successes for allergen immunotherapy were based on the work of two English scientists, Leonard Noon and John Freeman. Recognizing that pollen was the cause of hay fever, these scientists believed that they could induce immunity and tolerance by injecting hay fever patients with the pollen to which they were allergic. While common allergy medications often control symptoms, discontinuation  of these medications may lead to a quick return of the allergy symptoms. Allergy shots can potentially lead to lasting remission of allergy symptoms, and may even play a preventive role in terms of development of asthma and new allergies.

The process of treatment involves injecting the allergen(s) that are responsible for causing the allergy symptoms. These allergens are identified by a combination of a medical evaluation performed by a trained allergist/immunologist and allergy skin or allergy blood tests. The treatment begins with a build-up phase. Injections containing increasing amounts of the allergens are given 1 to 2 times a week until the target dose is reached. This target dose varies from person to person. The target dose may be reached in 3 to 6 months with a conventional schedule (one dose increase per visit) but may be achieved in shorter period of time with less visits using accelerated schedules such as cluster immunotherapy that administers 2-3 dose increases per visit. The maintenance phase begins when the target dose is reached. Once the maintenance dose is reached, the time between the allergy injections can be increased and generally range from every 2 to every 4 weeks. Maintenance immunotherapy treatment is generally continued for 3 to 5 years. Some people have lasting remission of their allergy symptoms but others may relapse after discontinuing immunotherapy, so the duration of allergen immunotherapy varies from person to person.

The decision to begin immunotherapy will be based on several factors including, the length of allergy season and severity of symptoms, the degree of symptom control with medications and allergen avoidance, desire to avoid long-term medication use, costs of treatment and time commitment for immunotherapy's build up and maintenance phases. While risks involved with the immunotherapy approach are rare, they may include serious life-threatening anaphylaxis. For this reason, immunotherapy should only be given under the supervision of a physician or qualified physician extender in a facility equipped with proper staff and equipment to identify and treat adverse reactions to allergy injections.

(Information only; not intended to replace medical advice; adapted from AAAAI)