Need allergy shots? Here's what you should know

Allergies are a big concern for us because they impact our energy levels and the way we feel. If we are having severe allergies, this can impact our ability to get what we need to get done -- done.

One of the treatment options for allergies, once they have been diagnosed, is allergy shots. Allergy shot therapy, which is sometimes called immunotherapy, is a way of desensitizing the immune system from the substance that is causing the allergy.

Allergy shots cannot be used for all types of allergies. For instance, they cannot be used for food allergies.

Allergy shots have been shown to be effective for indoor allergies like dust mites, cockroaches, mold or pet danger like cat or dog hair. Allergy shots can be effective for seasonal allergies like hay fever, or tree, grass or weed pollens. Finally, allergy shot can also be helpful for bee, wasp or hornet insect stings.

Allergies occur because we have an adverse response from our immune system. Our body sees a marker on the pollen, or dust or mold that signals that substance could cause danger to the body.

These markers are proteins called antigens. When our immune system comes in contact with these markers our body then registers whether it is something that it is allergic to or not. If our immune system has a reaction to the antigen then it produces a substance called an antibody which then attaches itself to the marker or antigen.

This antigen-antibody complex alerts the immune system to come and get rid of the substance that is causing the reaction. The immune system overreacts and causes the symptoms that we know as allergies.

Allergy shots may be right for you if you come into contact with their allergens on a daily basis and the allergy medications are not controlling your symptoms, or if you do not tolerate your allergy medications or the side effects from the medications.

The allergy shots contain a small amount of the antigen that you are having the allergic reaction to. The amount is small but enough to stimulate your immune system not large enough to cause a full-blown reaction.

You have to continue to get shots one or two times per week for several months.

Then you will have to get shots every two to four weeks for two to five years. This is so that your immune system can build up a tolerance to the allergen over time. The process is called desensitization.

If you decide to get the allergy shots then do not plan to exercise for two hours before or after your visit to the doctor. Also plan to stay at the doctor’s office for at least 30 minutes to make sure you do not have a bad reaction to your shot.

Allergy shots are just one way to manage your symptoms but I think it is important to understand the longevity of the process before you begin so you can be prepared for process to pay off over time.

Dr. Dae is a naturopathic physician who practices in the Washington, D.C. metro area. He treats the whole person using safe and effective combinations of traditional and natural methods to produce optimal health and well-being in the lives of her patients.