What is immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy, is also referred to as allergy therapy, is a series of drops or injections to control allergy symptoms. Immunotherapy is not a medication. It is a vaccine. Receiving immunotherapy desensitizes allergy patients to their specific allergens and is the only way to “turn off” the immune system’s reactions. Allergy patients frequently choose to get rid of their allergies and become medication “free”. Immunotherapy help the patient gradually develop a stronger tolerance of his or her allergens. With immunotherapy, your allergy symptoms can be decreased, minimized or even eliminated.
Who should consider receiving immunotherapy?
You should consider immunotherapy if complete avoidance of your allergens is impossible or if you:
- have moderate to severe allergies
- have frequent respiratory tract infections
- do not respond to allergy medications
- would prefer to avoid a lifetime of allergy medication use
- are willing to commit to a regularly scheduled treatment plan
- have chronic sinusitis or asthma due to allergies
How does immunotherapy work?
Immunotherapy works like a vaccine. Whereas a vaccine contains traces of a specific disease or bacteria, immunotherapy contains traces of your specific allergens–the very things that trigger an allergic reaction from your immune system. By gradually increasing the doses of your allergen, your body develops an immunity and/or tolerance to that allergen. In essence, immunotherapy turn off an inappropriate immune response–your allergic reaction to a plant, tree, pet or mould–while still allowing your immune system to respond normally to infectious agents, especially viruses.
Immunotherapy occurs in two phases:
1. Build-up phase: involves a routine of injections with increasing amount of allergens.
2. Maintenance phase: begins when the effective therapeutic dose is achieved. Once this maintenance dose is reached, injections generally become less frequent.
Immunotherapy is typically continued for a period of several years. Many patients have long-lasting improvement after the treatment is stopped.