Ever wondered whether allergy shots were effective and whether they are worth the time and trouble? Sheldon Spector MD & Ricardo Antonio Tan, MD , internationally respected medical experts in allergies, discusses the pros and cons of immunotherapy.
- What exactly is Immunotherapy?
- Is Immunotherapy a “cure” for allergies?
- Does Immunotherapy mean I would no longer suffer from allergies?
- Are there different types of Immunotherapy for allergy sufferers?
- What is the success rate of Immunotherapy for an allergy cure?
- Does Immunotherapy work better for one kind of allergy more than another?
- When I go to a doctor are they all going to use the same formulas?
- How long does Immunotherapy take?
- Is there a chance that I could go through all this trouble and it make no difference to my allergies?
- If I went through Immunotherapy, would I still need to use HEPA filters and the like and take special environmental precautions in my house?
- I have an HMO as medical insurance. Do HMOs pay for this kind of allergy treatment?
- How bad do your allergies need to be before your insurance will pay for it?
- If Immunotherapy has such a good success rate for elimination of allergies, why doesn’t everyone do it instead of taking medication and spending a ton of money on allergy control products?
- Any future new developments in Immunotherapy that I should be aware of?I heard of a cat vaccine that was due to be released and then it seems to have disappeared-any update on that?
A. Immunotherapy is commonly known as ” getting allergy shots”. It is the process of administering by injection increasing amounts of substances a patient is allergic to , such as pollen and dust mite, with the aim to eventually build tolerance to these substances and prevent them from causing symptoms. Immmunotherapy is especially useful against substances that are difficult to avoid such as pollen or dust mites.
A. Immunotherapy is not a cure but can significantly lessen allergy symptoms caused by specific substances. For example, a person with allergic rhinitis may no longer react to Bermuda grass or Olive trees but will always have a higher tendency than the general population of manifesting allergic symptoms to other substances.
A. Immunotherapy improves allergy symptoms to substances contained in the immunotherapy injections to different degrees. For example, some patients with cat allergy may no longer have symptoms around cats while others will need much less medication to prevent symptoms.
A. Yes. Immunotherapy is given most commonly to improve symptoms from aeroallergens ( inhaled allergens ). Venom immunotherapy is given to patients who have experienced systemic or life-threatening reactions to stinging or biting insects.
A. Studies showing the effectiveness of immunotherapy show that roughly 8 out of 10 allergy patients benefit from immunotherapy.
A. Immunotherapy has been shown to be effective in allergies to pollen, cats, dogs, molds, dust mites as well as stinging insects. Immunotherapy is not effective for food allergies.
Q. Are there different types of Immunotherapy? When I go to a doctor are they all going to use the same formulas?
A. Although there are community mixes that include common substances from a specific region, the most effective formulas or mixtures are made especially for the patient to include all specific substances or allergens he or she is allergic to.
A. Immunotherapy is usually given for three to five years for long-term benefit to allergy sufferers.
Q. Is there a chance that I could go through all this trouble and it make no difference to my allergies?
A. Improvement in allergy symptoms is usually observed in most patients after 6 months to 1 year of immunotherapy. It is not effective in all patients and if no improvement is seen within the first year, the allergist may decide to stop or change the therapy.
Q. If I went through Immunotherapy would I still need to use HEPA filters and the like and take special environmental precautions in my house?
A. Yes. While the body is developing tolerance to allergens by increasing doses of immunotherapy, it is advisable to continue avoidance measures such as HEPA filters or dust mite covers to increase the chances of successful immunotherapy.
A. Most HMOs today consider immunotherapy effective and pay for at least part of the treatment. Please check with your HMO to find out specific policies.
A. Most insurance companies will pay for immunotherapy if your primary care doctor refers you to an allergist and the allergist recommends immunotherapy as part of your treatment. Even patients with mild symptoms may be recommended immunotherapy to avoid worsening of symptoms if they cannot avoid the things they are allergic to, such as pets or specific native trees.
Q. If Immunotherapy has such a good success rate why doesn’t everyone do it instead of taking medication and spending a ton of money on allergy control products?
A. The time and commitment involved in starting and undergoing immunotherapy is still seen as an obstacle by many patients looking for a “quick fix”. In time , more and more patients realize that the long term benefits of immunotherapy are much better than being on medications for the rest of their life.
Q. Any future new developments in Immunotherapy that I should be aware of?I heard of a cat vaccine that was due to be released and then it seems to have disappeared – any update on that?
A. The promising “catvax” vaccine is still being studied. It is being touted as a fast-acting vaccine that would induce tolerance in allergic patients after only about 6 injections as opposed to the two to three year conventional cat immunotherapy.