Allergic rhinitis (often called hay fever) occurs when your immune system overreacts to particles in the air that you breathe—you are allergic to them. Your immune system attacks the particles, causing symptoms such as sneezing and a runny nose. The particles are called allergens, which simply means that they can cause an allergic reaction.
Asthma is a long-lasting condition that causes wheezing, trouble breathing, tightness in the chest, and coughing. When allergens such as pollens, dust mites, animal dander, cockroaches, and mold make your symptoms worse, it is known as allergic asthma.
Allergic rhinitis can affect your health if you don't treat it. You may have problems such as sinus infections, plugged ears or ear infections, and sinusitis.
If you don't control allergic asthma, it increases your risk of problems from lung and airway infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
When you get allergy shots (immunotherapy), your allergist or doctor injects small doses of substances that you are allergic to (allergens) under your skin. Over time, this decreases your reaction to the allergen and may reduce the symptoms of allergic rhinitis. Allergy shots are available for allergies to:
|Get allergy shots||Don't get allergy shots|
|What is usually involved?|
|What are the benefits?|
|What are the risks and side effects?|
Are you interested in what others decided to do? Many people have faced this decision. These personal stories may help you decide.
These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.
"I bought my daughter, Tina, a cat for her birthday. A month or so later, I developed allergy symptoms that I have never had before: sneezing; puffy, irritated eyes; and feeling tired. I thought maybe I was allergic to a detergent or soap, but my doctor did some tests, and it turns out I am allergic to the cat. I know it would break my daughter's heart to have to find a new home for the cat, and I have gotten attached to it, too. I decided to try getting the allergy shots and do what I can to keep the cat hair and dander out of my bedroom."
— Lynn, age 42
"For as long as I can remember, I have had bad hay fever. I have had tests to find out just what kind of pollen I am allergic to, and it turns out that I am allergic to several different kinds. I have learned over the years that my symptoms will get worse at certain times of the year, and I try to avoid being exposed to pollen during those times. My doctor and I also have spent a lot of time finding out which antihistamines and allergy medicines work for me without a lot of side effects. I feel like I manage my allergies well, so I'm not going to have the shots."
— Kenny, age 44
"I have lots of postnasal drainage from my allergies, and I get several sinus infections every year during allergy season. I could take drugs to treat a runny nose, but these other problems—and the side effects of the drugs—really affect my quality of life. My doctor has narrowed it down to just a couple of things that I am most allergic to, and I am going to try 1 or 2 years of allergy shots to see if they will help reduce my post-nasal drip and control my sinus infection problems."
— Jorge, age 30
"I have seasonal allergies that trigger my asthma during allergy season. I know that trees and ragweed trigger my symptoms, so when these are blooming, I try to avoid them as much as possible. Since avoiding these pollens seems to help, I don't want to go through with the skin testing and then the time it takes to get allergy shots."
— Sara, age 33
"I have asthma, and it gets worse during allergy season. I love being outside during the spring and summer, and I exercise outside a lot. My allergist told me that allergy shots could help my asthma during allergy season and during the whole year. I will do anything to be able to spend more time outside when it is such beautiful weather. I am definitely going to try allergy shots to reduce my asthma symptoms."
— Kathy, age 28
"I think the hassle of having shots every week for years would be a lot worse than dealing with my runny nose and itchy eyes for a few months every year. Maybe I will buy some stock in the tissue and antihistamine companies!"
— John, age 19
Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.
Reasons to choose allergy shots
Reasons not to choose allergy shots
I want to do whatever possible to relieve my symptoms even if I don't know how long the shots will work.
I don't want allergy shots if I can't be sure how long they will work.
I have tried to avoid or am not able to avoid the things that I am allergic to.
I believe I can avoid the things I am allergic to.
I want to treat the cause of my allergies, not just the symptoms.
I don't mind using medicine to relieve my symptoms.
I am willing to spend the money and take the time to get allergy shots.
I don't want to spend the time and money on allergy shots.
I have tried medicine and can't deal with the side effects.
Medicine controls my symptoms without side effects.
My other important reasons:
My other important reasons:
Now that you've thought about the facts and your feelings, you may have a general idea of where you stand on this decision. Show which way you are leaning right now.
Getting allergy shots
NOT getting allergy shots
1. Are allergy shots likely to relieve your allergy symptoms?
2. Do most people complete their allergy shots within 2 years?
3. Can children over age 5 have allergy shots?
1. Do you understand the options available to you?
2. Are you clear about which benefits and side effects matter most to you?
3. Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?
1. How sure do you feel right now about your decision?
2. Check what you need to do before you make this decision.
3. Use the following space to list questions, concerns, and next steps.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Rohit K Katial, MD - Allergy and Immunology|