For those allergy sufferers out there who have struggled with moderate to severe symptoms for some time, allergy shots, or immunotherapy can provide a ray of hope. As many doctors will tell you, allergy shots can be very successful in treating symptoms long-term.
Of course, immunotherapy requires a serious commitment on your part. For the first 3 to 6 months you’ll need to go to your doctor’s office once or twice weekly to receive your shot. After this initial “build-up” phase, you’ll have to continue with monthly shots for as long as 3 to 5 years following.
So imagine investing that much of your time and effort into treatment only to discover that your allergies have not improved significantly as a result.
Specialists estimate that immunotherapy can successfully treat 75-85% of patients. But what about the remaining 15-25%, who don’t experience significant relief as a result?
There may be a few reasons why allergy shots fail to work. Fortunately, there may be some factors that can interfere with immunotherapy treatment that you can control. Knowing what to watch out for can boost your chances of success so you experience relief sooner.
Why Allergy Shots Don’t Always Work
As long as everything goes according to plan, you can expect your allergy shot treatment to start working at the end of the build-up phase, or after 3 to 6 months of receiving shots. For some patients it may take considerably longer. They may not feel relief until a full year of treatment. If you’re allergy shots don’t start taking effect after 12 months, you’ll need to talk to your doctor about other options.
There are a number of different factors that could cause your allergy shots to be ineffective.
First and foremost, your doctor needs to correctly identify the exact allergen you react to. Before you ever receive your first shot, your allergist will require that you take either a skin or blood test to diagnose the allergen or allergens causing your symptoms. If a mistake occurred at this stage of the process and they either identified the wrong allergen or missed one completely, the allergy shots won’t work effectively to treat your symptoms.
Your home environment is yet another factor that could interfere with your immunotherapy treatment. Just because you decide to receive allergy shots does not mean you should fail to reduce the amount of allergens in your home. If the environment you live in still has a high level of the allergen you react to, your allergy shots may not be effective. Frequent exposure to other non-allergen triggers like tobacco smoke can also hamper immunotherapy treatment.
Receiving an incorrect amount of the allergen serum in each injection may also undermine your allergy shot treatment.
It is very important that the doctor or nurse administering the shot give the precise recommended dosage. If the dose of the serum is too low, then the allergy shots may prove ineffective over time. If, on the other hand, the dose is too high, then you increase your chance of experiencing moderate to severe side effects. It is of extreme importance that the person administering the treatment always gives the correct dose. As a patient, you can verify the dosage yourself to ensure accuracy.
Not following the recommended mixing guidelines for your specific allergen serum could also interfere with the efficacy of allergy shots.
Allergy vaccines have very specific mixing and dosage guidelines that must be adhered to if they are to work properly. Some allergens are incompatible and should not be placed in the same vial. If the lab incorrectly mixes your allergen serum, your treatment may not be effective.
Lastly, immunotherapy needs to be given over an extended period of time, at the correct therapeutic dose to provide long-term relief. It is of utmost importance as well that you closely follow your doctor’s allergy shot schedule. Missing one or two visits occasionally should not have an adverse effect. But consistent failure to receive your shots on a regular basis will decrease the efficacy of the treatment or possibly lead to increased risk of side effects.
So How Effective Are Allergy Shots Really?
If you follow the recommended guidelines and schedule for your allergy shot treatment, you have a good chance of experiencing long-term relief. Immunotherapy treatment can even be effective in stopping new allergies from developing in some patients. Kids in particular seem to respond very well to allergy shot treatment. Many specialists claim that it can even help prevent the development of asthma in children with allergies.
Just understand that if you do decide to pursue immunotherapy treatment that it’s a big commitment and one that you will need to follow through with 100%. If you fail to maintain your allergy shots schedule, it probably won’t work effectively to relieve your symptoms.