Is Immunotherapy a Treatment I Need for the Rest of My Life?

Is Immunotherapy a Treatment I Need for the Rest of My Life?

Allergies are your body’s reaction to a foreign substance — ranging from pollen to insect venom to certain medications and foods — that’s actually innocuous and doesn't cause a reaction in most people.

In response to this allergen, your immune system produces antibodies, molecules that target and neutralize it before it can “harm” you. The immune system's reaction can cause skin, sinus, lungs, or digestive tract inflammation.

The severity of an allergy to a particular allergen varies from one person to the next and can range from minor irritation to anaphylaxis — a potentially life-threatening condition. Most allergies can't be cured, but treatments are available to help relieve your allergy symptoms.

At Oasis Ear, Nose, and Throat, our board-certified ENT specialists, Dr. James Osborne and Dr. Bryan Smedley, treat all manner of allergies at their office in Surprise, Arizona. One of the best options is immunotherapy, but it can take time to kick in. Does that mean you need treatment for the rest of your life? Maybe, maybe not.

What is immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy is a type of therapy to prevent allergic reactions to common and non-harmful substances. Before starting, your doctor identifies your triggers for allergy symptoms, usually by a skin prick test or sometimes a blood test. He generally only recommends immunotherapy if you’re selectively sensitive to several allergens.

The therapy involves gradually increasing doses of the allergen to which you’re allergic. Because the increase is incremental, it allows the immune system time to become less sensitive to the substance, most likely by producing a “blocking” antibody that reduces allergy symptoms when your body encounters the allergen for real in the future. It also reduces the inflammation characteristic of rhinitis and asthma.

There are two phases to immunotherapy treatment:

1. Build-up phase

You receive injections with increasing amounts of the allergens about one to two times each week. How long this phase lasts depends upon how often you have the injections, but it’s usually somewhere from 3-6 months.

2. Maintenance phase

Once you reach an effective dose, you enter the maintenance phase. What’s considered an effective dose varies according to your level of allergen sensitivity and your response to the build-up phase. During the maintenance phase, you receive treatments only every 2-4 weeks.

While you may notice a decrease in symptoms during the build-up phase, it can take as long as 12 months on your maintenance dose to notice an improvement. If the injections are successful, we generally continue with maintenance treatment for 3-5 years.

The effectiveness of immunotherapy appears to be related to the length of treatment and the dose of the allergen. While some people do get lasting relief from their allergy symptoms, others may relapse after discontinuing allergy shots. If you fall into the second category, we can discuss alternative treatment options to help you manage your symptoms.

Do you have allergies and need relief? Immunotherapy is a common and viable option. To learn more, or to schedule a consultation with one of our specialists, call Oasis Ear, Nose, and Throat at 623-207-7560, or book online with us today.

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