What is an Allergy Shot, and How Does It Work?

Allergies can be a significant hindrance to your daily life, causing symptoms ranging from those as minor as a runny nose to those as severe as inhibited breathing and anaphylaxis. While avoiding allergens altogether is ideal, it’s not always practical or doable. 

This is where allergy shots come in. Allergy shots, or subcutaneous immunotherapy, are a type of allergy immunotherapy that helps you become less reactive to a particular allergen over time. So, how does it work? In this article, we’ll explore allergies, allergy shots, and how they work to help you decide if they’re the right fit for your needs. 


The Basics of an Allergy

An allergy is a reaction in the body to a foreign substance called an allergen. Allergens can be various substances, such as bee venom, pollen, specific foods, pasture grasses, pet dander, and more. 

When you have an allergy, the antibodies in your body, or blood proteins that counteract a specific antigen, identify the allergen as harmful. When you come into contact with that allergen, such as when it touches your skin, or you consume or inhale it, those antibodies trigger a response. They do this by communicating with certain cells that release specific chemicals that cause the allergic symptoms. 

Your symptoms may vary in severity, with milder symptoms including a runny nose and itchy eyes and severe symptoms including difficulty breathing or anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially life-threatening reaction. 

What is An Allergy Shot?

An allergy shot is subcutaneous immunotherapy, a type of allergy immunotherapy administered under the skin via an injection. Subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT) is the most common type of allergy immunotherapy and is highly effective.

When you start an allergy shot treatment plan, you’ll need to visit your doctor’s office or allergy clinic as directed for the injection. Most doctors and allergists require patients to remain in the office for a specified time, as adverse reactions are possible, although rare. 

Understanding the Workings of Allergy Shots

Allergy shots work by administering a minuscule amount of an allergen underneath your skin. The dose of the allergen helps slowly “train” your body to become less reactive to a particular allergen over time. It achieves this by minimizing the production of the “blocking” antibodies that kickstart the chain reaction that causes the symptoms. 

The amount of the allergen in each injection slowly increases over time, working to limit your body’s immune response. The process takes a while, with the first signs of progress appearing within the first year. However, the best results usually appear in years two and three, so a long-term commitment is necessary. 

The timeline and workings of allergy shots are much the same as the other common form of immunotherapy, called sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT). Unlike allergy shots, sublingual immunotherapy is administered under the tongue via drops or tablets, so it’s an excellent alternative for those who are needle-shy and children. 

Benefits of Allergy Shots

Allergy shots offer a remarkable array of benefits for those with pesky allergies. Of course, the most notable benefits are the reduction of allergy symptoms and the long-term management of allergies. 

Over time, the shots can help you enjoy experiences and places you previously couldn’t. For example, suppose you couldn’t visit a friend’s house because they have dogs and you have an allergy to pet dander. As your treatment progresses, you may be able to visit your friend’s home without discomfort. 

While notable, the benefits go beyond these two perks. Another handy benefit is AIT’s potential to prevent the development of new allergies. This factor makes AIT a commonly used tool for addressing current and potential allergies in children. 

Last but not least, allergy shots can improve your quality of life. This benefit goes hand in hand with the first two but is still worth mentioning. With time and commitment to your treatment plan, you can pursue a life free of pesky allergy symptoms that disrupt your day and detract from your quality of life. 

Final Thoughts

If you suffer from allergies, allergy shots could be a game-changer for you. These shots can make a significant difference in your life, helping you find relief from pesky allergies that leave you with irritating and incessant symptoms. With a long-term commitment to your allergy immunotherapy plan, you could enjoy the full range of benefits, from preventing the development of new allergies to improving your quality of life. 

If you’re interested in pursuing allergy shots to help you manage your allergies and resulting symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider. They can evaluate your health history and allergies to help you select the right choice for your needs. 

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