Allergies can drive just about anyone up the wall, and severe allergies can go from bothersome to terrifying if you feel like your life is in danger. Fortunately, immunotherapy offers a permanent solution to allergies for people who can't bear them anymore. However, committing to immunotherapy isn't something you should take lightly, as the process is long and can be somewhat uncomfortable.
You Have To Start Small
Immunotherapy works by dosing you with a tiny amount of whatever allergen is causing you grief. Over time, building up the dose of each treatment will also improve your tolerance to the allergen and result in the abatement of your symptoms.
For most patients, the first appointments will be set once or twice a week. At each appointment, your allergy specialist will inject you with a small dose of allergen, then observe you for 30 minutes to an hour to make sure there are no signs of distress.
This observation period is critical, as the injections can cause severe reactions in a rare few patients. For this reason, if you experience any swelling of the throat, nausea, or runny nose after receiving an injection, you should contact your doctor immediately. Redness, swelling, itchiness, and even hives are normal at the injection site, and should go away within 8 hours.
For the first 3-6 months of your treatment, your dose of allergen will go up with each appointment. You may experience some improvement in your symptoms during this time, but it's vital that you continue the immunotherapy as scheduled if you want to keep your allergies at bay.
Treatment Is A Long Process
In addition to the months of building up your dosage, you'll still have to undergo additional years of treatment. As you continue the course, you'll be able to attend appointments less frequently, from once every two weeks to once every three or four. Most patients are able to completely finish their immunotherapy in 3 to 5 years, but some still need infrequent injections to keep up their immunity.
If everything goes well, you're likely to see significant improvement in your allergic reactions after the first year of treatment. If you still have strong reactions at this point, you may need to ask your allergist to perform another allergy test. In some cases, multiple allergies may be hidden by whichever one you react to most strongly. As this significant allergy is treated, the reactions to other unidentified allergens may be more noticeable. Re-testing can identify the allergen and ensure you receive comprehensive therapy.
Results Make It All Worthwhile
After two years of treatment, your allergies should be greatly diminished. In mild allergy sufferers, symptoms may have completely abated by this point. Sufferers of severe allergies should have far more manageable symptoms at this point. It is important to remember that you must continue the therapy until your allergist is satisfied, even if your symptoms seem to have dissipated.
By the end of the full immunotherapy course, even severe allergic reactions should be completely gone. In some cases, shots will need to continue for a longer period than expected to completely rid you of symptoms. This can be caused by interruptions in the injection schedule or by the discovery of previously hidden allergies. All the same, even cases that take longer should still result in allergy symptoms going dormant.
While the results of immunotherapy are satisfying, you should keep in mind that the process can be unforgiving at times. If you're up for the task of strictly following your allergist's instructions, then sit down with them and talk about receiving injection treatment. It very well may change your life.