Preparing for Allergy Immunotherapy: What to Expect

allergy

When allergies disrupt your day, there are a handful of options that can offer short-term relief. Decongestants, antihistamines, and corticosteroids are common options that offer temporary relief from irritating and uncomfortable allergy symptoms, such as a runny nose or itchy, watery eyes. Unfortunately, these are only quick, temporary fixes.

Luckily, there’s another option: allergy immunotherapy. This treatment offers promising results for people suffering from various allergies, such as sensitivity to bee pollen or pet dander. But starting a new treatment can be overwhelming, especially if you’re unsure what to expect.

With a bit of background knowledge, you can confidently start your allergy immunotherapy and take the first step toward long-term relief.

Allergy Immunotherapy: A Quick Rundown

Allergy immunotherapy (AIT) is a treatment designed to reduce your body’s reactivity to a specific allergen, such as bee venom, pollen, or pet dander. The process helps reduce the production of the “blocking” antibodies responsible for triggering your symptoms.

When you have an allergy and are exposed to the allergen, those antibodies communicate with specific cells that release chemicals. This triggers the immune response, creating those symptoms you recognize as an allergy.

The immunotherapy treatment doses contain a small, incrementally increasing dose of the allergen to reduce your body’s sensitivity to it. Exposure to the allergen gives your immune system the opportunity to adjust and build tolerance.

Over time, this tolerance can allow you to enjoy places and experiences you previously couldn’t. It takes time, though, demanding a long-term commitment that gives your body and immune system ample opportunity to gradually adjust.

Most people begin to notice the benefits within the first year, although years two and three usually bring in the best results. It all depends on you and your allergy.

What to Expect During Treatment

Allergy immunotherapy can seem somewhat overwhelming, especially if you don’t know what to expect. Here are the basics of what your treatment will entail:

Before Treatment

Before you start phase one of your journey, you’ll likely need to complete some testing to give your allergist a better idea of your starting point. This usually involves skin tests or blood tests to identify what allergies you have and how severe they are.

This part is quick and easy. It’s usually completed in the first appointment with your allergist, but it can vary from one provider to the next.

Phase 1: Building

The first phase of your allergy immunotherapy journey is called the build phase. During this part of the process, you’ll receive more frequent doses of the allergen, either in the form of shots, drops, or tablets.

You’ll receive between one and three doses each week, repeating the process every week for six to ten months. As the months pass, the amount of the allergen inside each dose will slowly increase. This helps gradually exposure your immune system to more and more of the allergen, giving it the opportunity to adjust and build a tolerance.

This phase can feel overwhelming, especially if you choose to do allergy shots. Since you’ll need to visit your doctor’s office for each injection and remain for a set period for monitoring, it can feel like a lot. Once you get through it, though, things will get easier!

Phase 2: Maintenance

In phase two, called the maintenance phase, things get much easier. The number of doses drops significantly. Instead of going up to a dozen times per month, you’ll go once a month. For many people, this is a huge relief, especially those with busy, hectic schedules without time for frequent doctor visits.

This phase lasts the longest, but since most folks only need one dose per month, it isn’t so bad. Most people spend between three and five years in this phase, although it can look different for everyone. If you have a more severe allergy, you might spend even longer in your immunotherapy regimen.

Some folks may even need to continue the treatment indefinitely to continue enjoying the results, while others may stop the treatment after a few years and enjoy the benefits for years. It all depends on you and your allergy.

Feel Confident Going into Your First Treatment

Taking the initial jump into a new treatment can initiate feelings of stress, anxiety, and many more emotions. It’s completely normal, especially if you don’t know anyone who has completed the treatment before. Knowing what to expect can make a huge difference.

With a bit of background knowledge, you can enter your first allergy immunotherapy treatment feeling confident and prepared. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor or allergist!