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Allergy Shots (Allergen Immunotherapy)

Allergy shots are a treatment where you are given a series of shots to provide you with long-term relief from severe allergies. 

Allergy shots are also known by a few different names, including: 

  • Allergy Immunotherapy
  • Subcutaneous Immunotherapy

Allergy shots are a treatment option we consider if you suffer from severe allergy symptoms that are getting in the way of your daily life. You must take a sequence of injections at our offices for this treatment. 

Good Candidates for Allergy Shots

With allergy shots, you receive a series of injections directly in our office. Allergy shots are typically used for people who suffer from the following types of allergies: 

  • Allergic asthma
  • Allergic rhinitis
  • Eye allergies
  • Allergic conjunctivitis
  • Allergies to stinging insects, such as bees

Allergy shots work best for individuals who are sensitive to inhaled allergens as well as insect venom. 

They are also a good treatment if you suffer from year-long allergy symptoms and don’t want to take medication all year to deal with them. 

Who Isn’t a Good Candidate for Allergy Shots

Allergy shots are not for everyone. If you have the following health conditions, you are probably not a good candidate for allergy shots.

  • Suffer from severe asthma
  • Have heart disease
  • Are currently pregnant

Additionally, allergy shots are only recommended in people over the age of five. Children under five may not have the communication skills to share any side effects or discomfort that may necessitate stopping treatment. This is why this treatment is recommended for individuals who are at least five years old.

How Allergy Shots Work

Allergy shots are specifically designed to treat your allergies. Each injection contains a small amount of the allergen(s) to which you are allergic. 

The small amount of the allergen contained in the shot will help your body develop immunity to your allergen. Allergy shots use a similar process to vaccines. 

With a vaccine, you fight the invasive substance in the vaccine by allowing your body to build antibodies and immunity to the invasive substances. Similarly, allergy shots are designed to improve how your immune system cells respond to allergens. 

The end goal with allergy shots is to help your body fight off allergies while reducing your adverse symptoms to those allergens. Allergy shots can also help with reducing symptoms of allergic asthma.

Preparing for Allergy Shots

Before getting an allergy shot, you will undergo allergy testing. Allergy testing will help us determine the substance(s) to which you are allergic. We will use this information to decide what substances to use in your shots.

Procedure for Receiving Allergy Shots

Once you have undergone allergy testing and we know the substance(s) you are allergic to, you can start receiving allergy shots. Allergy shots are given in two phases:

  • Build-up 
  • Maintenance

The Build-Up Phase

The build-up phase requires a significant time commitment. You will receive injections at our office up to two times per week to help your body get used to the allergen(s). 

After each injection, you will need to hang out in our offices for about 30 minutes so that we can monitor you for any side effects and reactions. 

Depending on your unique situation, the build-up phase generally lasts 3 to 6 months. 

The Maintenance Phase

The maintenance phase happens once we have determined that your body is used to the injections. This is based on how your body reacts to the injections.

During the maintenance phase, you will continue to receive a shot once or twice a month. This will last between 3 to 5 years. During these 3 to 5 years, it is vital that you don’t miss any injections. Missing injections can throw your treatment course off the path and get in the way of long-term relief from your allergens. 

After each maintenance appointment, you will hang out in our offices for about half an hour after the shot so we can monitor your reaction. 

The Effectiveness of Allergy Shots

Allergy shots are designed to provide long-term relief after completing the maintenance phase. 

It can take up to a year of maintenance shots before you start to see the benefits. Some people who receive allergy shots may no longer need to take additional medication for allergies. 

Sometimes, allergy shots don’t work. This can happen for a variety of different reasons, such as: 

  • Missing the substance(s) that you are allergic to during testing
  • Not enough allergens in the actual shots
  • Continued exposure to allergens in your daily life at extremely high levels
  • Stopping allergy shots due to reactions to the shots

Allergy Shot Side Effects

Although most people only experience some redness or swelling at the injection site, others may experience some side effects after an allergy shot.

The most common side effects are hives or little bumps that look like mosquito bites at the injection site. This type of reaction can happen right after the injection or several hours later. The hives or bumps can last several hours before disappearing without additional treatment. If you want, you can apply ice to the injection site to reduce swelling. 

Sometimes, people experience mild allergy symptoms after their shots, such as:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy skin

This happens due to your body reacting to the allergens being injected. You can take an antihistamine to deal with such symptoms. 

Although rare, some people may experience a severe reaction to their allergy shots. Severe reactions can include: 

  • Swelling
  • Hives
  • Anaphylaxis

Severe reactions usually occur within 30-minutes after getting an allergy shot. That is why we ask you to hang out in our office for at least 30 minutes so we can monitor and intervene if you have a severe reaction to your shot. 

If you ever feel sick after your allergy shot, let us know! If you are sick, you may need to skip a shot. Let us know what you are dealing with, so we can determine the best course of action.

Allergy Shots Cost

Allergy shots are typically covered by health insurance. You may have to pay a copay for each visit. If you don’t have health insurance, let us know so we can work out a payment plan. 

Keep in mind that allergy shots are a long-term commitment. However, allergy shots can save money on sick visits and over-the-counter allergy medications over time.

Allergy Shots in Portland, Oregon

At West Hills Allergy & Asthma Associates, Dr. Anderson-Cowell has more than 23 years of experience diagnosing and treating patients with different types of allergies. 

Allergy shots require a time commitment, but they can also provide you with long-term relief from your allergy triggers. 

If you’re looking for expert diagnostic experience and effective treatment history, Dr. Anderson-Cowell can help. For a consultation, please call (503) 297-4779 or request an appointment online.

9701 SW Barnes Road
Suite 130
Portland, Oregon 97225


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