Heather C. James, M.D.
Rebecca B. Raby, M.D.
256-382-0070

Allergy Shots

Allergen immunotherapy (also known as “allergy shots”) is the repeated administration of specific allergens to patients with allergy-related conditions (such as insect allergy, hay fever and asthma) for the purpose of providing protection against their allergic symptoms and inflammatory reactions associated with exposure to these allergens. Immunotherapy should be used as part of a comprehensive allergy management plan that includes attempts to control allergy symptoms with appropriate environmental modifications and medical therapies. Allergen immunotherapy, or allergy shots should be supervised by a board certified allergist/immunologist. Immunotherapy is the only potential cure currently available to us for allergic rhinitis and insect hypersensitivity. It is not a cure for asthma, but in those patients with asthma triggered significantly by allergens, it can result in improvement in the asthma, as well.

Allergen immunotherapy has been practiced since the early part of the 20th century. Our understanding of how it works is constantly evolving, and although more is understood today than 80 years ago, the precise mechanism(s) for the observed clinical effects has yet to be determined. We do know that giving allergy shots modifies the patient’s immune system in such a way as to decrease sensitivity to the specific substances to which the individual is allergic. In essence, with successful immunotherapy, a patient begins to ignore the allergens that formerly caused allergy symptoms.

Conditions for which Allergen Immunotherapy (Allergy Shots) are effective:

Allergic Rhinitis (also commonly known as hay fever) Causes severe nasal (and possible eye and throat) reactions when exposed to pollens or other air borne allergens to which patients are sensitive. Well designed scientific studies have shown that immunotherapy is beneficial in the treatment of allergic rhinitis due to tree pollen, grass pollen, weed pollen, mold spores, dust mites, and animal allergens (e.g., cat and dog). Immunotherapy in childhood can prevent the development of new sensitivities to additional allergens.
Asthma Causes shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing and is often triggered by allergies in both children and adults. Well-designed clinical studies have demonstrated the efficacy of allergen immunotherapy in patients with pollen-induced and mold-induced asthma. Some studies have also shown al benefit in patients with animal-induced or dust-mite induced asthma. Studies have also shown that immunotherapy can help prevent the development of asthma in children with dust mite allergy.
Insect Allergy Allergen immunotherapy should be considered in patients who have had reactions to insects (hymenoptera) after exposure to these allergens (such as through inhalation or injection). The efficacy of immunotherapy in patients allergic to the stings of hymenoptera (honeybees, yellow jackets, hornets, wasps, and imported fire ants) has been well documented. The risk of anaphylaxis (severe systemic, life-threatening allergic reaction) can be reduced from 60% to less than 5% with successful hymenoptera venom allergy shots, or immunotherapy.

The traditional protocol of allergy shots for environmental allergies basically consists of injections (shots) weekly or twice a week for 6-9 months as the concentration of the allergy vaccines (shots) is increased. Then the interval is increased first to every other week, then every third week, and finally monthly for maintenance. For maximum and long-lasting effectiveness of allergy shots the course of immunotherapy is three to five years.

Sublingual (allergy drops) immunotherapy is not approved by the FDA and is, therefore, not offered at this office.

Immunotherapy has not proven effective for food allergy.

Please select this link for the immunotherapy packet and consent form. You may deliver or fax the consent form to the office if you choose to proceed with immunotherapy at Dr. James or Dr. Raby’s recommendation. We suggest checking with your insurance company prior to initiation of allergy injections, as policies vary regarding coverage for allergen immunotherapy.