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Allergy Shots (Immunotherapy) for Asthma


Table of Contents


Allergy Shots (Immunotherapy) for Asthma

Treatment Overview

Allergy shots (immunotherapy) are a treatment in which small doses of substances to which you are allergic (allergens) are injected under your skin. Over time, your body may become less responsive to the allergens, which means you may have fewer symptoms.

Allergy shots are given after careful skin testing for an allergy. During initial treatment, allergy shots are given once or twice a week.

This information is for people with asthma. For complete information on allergy shots, see the topic Allergic Rhinitis.

What To Expect After Treatment

You receive allergy shots in your doctor's office. You will stay in the office for 30 minutes after getting an allergy shot to be watched for possible life-threatening reactions (anaphylaxis) to the injected allergens.

Redness and warmth at the shot sites are common and go away after a short period of time.

Why It Is Done

Allergy shots may be used to help treat asthma if:2

How Well It Works

Allergy shots may be effective in treating asthma that is caused by an allergen and can reduce asthma symptoms and medicine requirements.3

Risks

Allergy shots are safe if the shots are given correctly. Redness and warmth at the shot site are common. Overall body (systemic) reactions such as hives, asthma symptoms, and low blood pressure are not common. But people who have asthma may be at increased risk for a severe reaction (anaphylaxis) to the shots and, possibly, death. You should have your asthma well controlled before you receive allergy shots.

Because of the possibility of anaphylaxis, the shots are given in a doctor's office where emergency care can be provided if needed. Most reactions to allergy shots occur within 30 minutes after the injection. You should stay at your doctor's office for at least this amount of time.

You must report any delayed reaction that you have to a shot. Late reactions can happen any time within 24 hours after a shot. Reactions may be local (such as a large, red or raised area around the site) or overall body reactions (such as trouble breathing).

What To Think About

Allergy shots should not be used when you:

If you have a weakened immune system (such as from HIV infection) or an autoimmune disease (such as lupus or multiple sclerosis), talk to your doctor about whether allergy shots are safe for you.

The possibility of giving doses of allergens under the tongue (sublingual) instead of by injection is being studied.

Complete the special treatment information form (PDF) to help you understand this treatment.

References

Citations

  1. Joint Task Force on Practice Parameters (2011). Allergen immunotherapy: A practice parameter third update. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 127(1, Suppl): S1–S55.

  2. National Institutes of Health (2007). National Asthma Education and Prevention Program Expert Panel Report 3: Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma (NIH Publication No. 08–5846). Available online: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/asthma/index.htm.

  3. Abramson MJ, et al. (2010). Injection allergen immunotherapy for asthma. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (8). Oxford: Update Software.

Credits for Allergy Shots (Immunotherapy) for Asthma

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Lora J. Stewart, MD - Allergy and Immunology
Last Revised March 14, 2013

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