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Frequently Asked Questions about Immunotherapy (Allergy Shots)

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1.What is immunotherapy (IT) or an allergy shot?

Immunotherapy (IT) is a series of injections (shots). In each injection you are given a small amount of a mixture containing extracts to which you are allergic. You start out at a very low concentration and gradually build up to the highest concentration or what we call the “maintenance” strength. Depending on the series your doctor orders, you will go through 5 or 6 concentrations until you reach the maintenance strength. Each concentration has a different letter on the vial. The usual maintenance strength is an A vial.


2.How does immunotherapy (IT) work?

The extract mechanism is not thoroughly known yet. Much research is still being done. However, you do know (IT) causes changes in the immune system so when your body is exposed to the allergen (what you are allergic to) you have less of a reaction (fewer symptoms).


3.How often will I take allergy shots (IT)?

When you first start (IT) you should receive a shot twice a week which is while you are receiving the lower concentrations. Once you reach the highest concentration or maintenance strength, the interval can be extended to once a week or even up to once a month depending on how well your symptoms are controlled. Our nursing staff will give you information on spreading the time interval of your shots when you reach your maintenance dose.


4.What if I miss my shots?

It is not a problem if you miss a short period of time (one to two week.) Instead of going up on your strength, you will be given the same strength you received last time. If you miss an extended amount of time the amount may have to be reduced. This depends on how long you have been on your shots.


5.How long before I will start seeing an improvement in my symptoms?

This will vary from patient to patient. As a general rule, you will not begin to notice significant improvement until you have been on your highest concentration or maintenance strength for several months. Most patients will reach maximum benefit after they have been on their maintenance for a year to a year and a half. You should continue the allergy medications your doctor has prescribed until advised to reduce or discontinue them. You should also continue the environmental control measures recommended to you. This combination of treatments will provide the best results and a decrease in your symptoms.


6.How long will I take (IT)?

This again will vary from patient to patient. However, the usual minimal course is 3 to 5 years. Some patients will have to remain on (IT) longer.


7.How are my extracts prepared?

Your extract is individually prescribed and contains protein extracts of what was positive on your skin tests. Pollen and environmental extracts are diluted in saline. Venom extracts for stinging insects are mixed with small amounts of human albumin. If you have any religious objections to receiving a very small amount of human albumin in your extract, please discuss your concerns with Dr. Bhat.

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