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The Role Of An Allergist

Jul 25, 2008
Before starting immunotherapy, the allergist will take a complete medical history. Be sure to tell him or her about every medication you take, prescription and nonprescription, even those you take only occasionally. Report any vitamins, dietary supplements, herbal products, and other alternative therapies you take. Also report every allergy you know of.

If you are a woman, it is essential that you tell your allergist if you are pregnant or have any plans to become pregnant in the foreseeable future. In this case, allergy shots might be better suited for another time. Based on your particular situation, the allergist will tell you your options for treatment of your allergies during pregnancy.

In certain situations, allergy shots can be continued during pregnancy, if it is determined that the potential benefits outweigh the risk of an unlikely, but potentially severe, reaction to one of the shots.

The allergist will prepare a schedule for your allergy shots. It is extremely important that you adhere to this schedule.

At first you will get the shots often, once or twice a week. After about 6-12 months, you will start maintenance therapy, which means a shot about every month or so. Most people continue to take maintenance therapy for 3-5 years.

The allergist will also keep track of your symptoms to see how well the shots are working for you. The only reason to have further skin testing is if the allergy shots are not working and there is concern that you may have developed more allergies.

Immunotherapy, if properly managed, can significantly reduce allergy symptoms. In some people, it greatly reduces the need for allergy medication. These effects become noticeable 6-12 months after starting the therapy. Most people notice continued gradual improvement over the next 2-4 years. By years 3-5, most people are desensitized to their allergen or allergens. Many can stop immunotherapy at that point.

There are several things you can do to increase the success of the therapy. Make a commitment to follow your allergist's recommendations to the letter.

Follow through with the entire course of treatment recommended. If you stop half way through, the treatment will not work. Continue to avoid the allergens as much as possible. Just because you complete a course of immunotherapy for your allergy to pet dander doesn't mean you can now go out and get a cat. Immunotherapy is much less likely to work if you do not continue to avoid your allergens.

Allergy shots do not work for all allergens or for all allergic conditions. While they reduce symptoms of allergies such as seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever), indoor allergies such as dust and dust mites, molds and mildews, and animal dander; and stinging insect venoms, they are not effective for food or medication allergies at this time. Generally, they are given only for allergens that are bothersome all year long or for significant portions of each year.

A final factor in your consideration of allergy shots is your patience. If they are to work properly, the shots must be given in a series over time.
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