Immunotherapy injections, also known as allergy shots, are given to patients with hay fever (allergic rhinitis), allergic asthma, or reactions to insect stings. Allergy shots are not a cure for allergies, but they can diminish sensitivities. The shots result in fewer allergy symptoms and the need for less medication. 

Immunotherapy is the only treatment option that can change the immune system’s response to allergies.  Several studies have shown that immunotherapy plays a preventative role in children, possibly preventing the development of asthma in patients with hay fever. Allergy shots are for patients with moderate or severe symptoms that are not easily controlled by environmental modifications. Eighty-five percent of people have a reduction in allergy symptoms after receiving allergy shots.

How Immunotherapy Works

Allergy shots may decrease allergic reactions to common allergens like pollens, molds, animal dander, and dust mites.  Typically, the first six to 12 months of allergy shots gradually decreases sensitivity to allergens and leads to the further improvement of allergies. 

It is important to maintain your immunotherapy schedule. Missing your allergy shots for a short time is acceptable, but an adjustment to your recommended dose may be required for any long lapses between injections. Please contact us if you miss receiving your injections for longer than the recommended period of time.

Mount Sinai Health System also has a rush immunotherapy program.  Rush immunotherapy is a way for to quickly desensitize patients to a particular allergy. Patients can spend a day in the immunology office and receive a full day of allergy shots. With rush immunotherapy, you reach a point where you no longer have a reaction to an allergy. After the rush immunotherapy, the results last for eight months.

Reactions to Allergy Shots

Allergic reactions to allergy shots are possible. Reactions can range from swelling at the injection site to systemic reactions like hay fever type symptoms, hives, lightheadedness, asthma and, in very rare cases, life-threatening reactions.

There are conditions that make allergic reactions to the injections more likely. If you feel a worsening of your asthma symptoms, please contact your nurse or doctor before receiving your injections. Medications, including blood pressure medicines, glaucoma medications, and migraine medications, can affect your reaction to allergy injections. Before every injection, you should inform the nurse or doctor if you have started any new medications.  

Drug desensitization

Drug desensitization is an effective way to treat hay fever, allergic asthma, atopic dermatitis, and hymenoptera sensitivity. The goal of desensitization is to reduce the sensitivity to the allergen when exposed to it in the future. An allergist will start treatment with a low dose of the substance to prevent a severe reaction. Gradually during treatment process, the allergist will increase the doses at regular intervals until the full dose is reached. Patients may receive injections once or twice a week until the body has built up a tolerance to the substance. The immunotherapy process may continue for several years.

Drug desensitization is typically used for patients with a drug allergy who display an immediate reaction (minutes to hours after exposure) to the drug. It is not commonly used for delayed reactions to medications which may happen days after exposure.