Proven Benefits of Immunotherapy
Through over 100 years of use, allergy immunotherapy has been well studied and proven to be effective in patients with allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis, and allergic asthma. There is some evidence that this therapy may also be useful to treat other forms of allergy, such as atopic dermatitis, that affects the skin.
Medical studies have shown that up to 85% of people treated with immunotherapy for hay fever may achieve symptom relief within the first year of starting immunotherapy. Many people also benefit from being able to reduce the use of allergy medications and an improved quality of life. As mentioned before, allergy immunotherapy may prevent the development of asthma in people with hay fever and may prevent the development of new allergies in people who already have one kind of allergy.
Since allergy immunotherapy has been around for so long, the safety profile of this therapy is well known. This therapy can be used to treat children and adults, and even pregnant women. Minor reactions, such as a red, itchy bump at the injection site, may occur immediately following a treatment. A similar kind of reaction may occur 6 to 24 hours after treatment in some cases. These reactions can be managed by the doctor who administers the treatment. These kinds of reactions do not interfere with treatment in the great majority (96%) of patients.1 In rare cases, more severe, reactions may occur. For this reason, allergy immunotherapy is always given under close medical supervision.
Doctors know that the benefits of allergen immunotherapy can last for many years. Some people who complete 3 to 5 years of immunotherapy can stop without further treatment or symptoms. Other people may require longer treatment or experience symptoms after stopping immunotherapy. So, treatment must be tailored to each person’s needs.
As with any kind of medical treatment, there are many factors to consider before starting. Allergen immunotherapy requires a series of office visits for injections of allergen extracts into the skin over several years.1 Therefore, people considering allergen immunotherapy need to know that they are committing to long-term therapy, and need to keep up with office visits as scheduled to get the best results.
During the initial build-up phase of therapy, you will need to plan on 1 or 2 office visits per week. After each allergy injection, you will be monitored in the office for at least 30 minutes. The purpose of the build-up phase is to establish a target dose that will control your allergy symptoms, which can usually be reached within 3 to 6 months. Faster schedules can also be used.
Once your target dose is reached, the maintenance phase begins. During the maintenance phase, the time interval between office visits is typically lengthened. Injections may be given every 2 to 4 weeks.
The exact duration of therapy cannot be predicted for any one person starting therapy, but is often around 3 to 5 years. The length of treatment is based on each individual patient’s need.
Overall, the benefits of allergen immunotherapy can last many years– even life-long – after stopping therapy.
Allergen immunotherapy is generally well tolerated. Minor skin reactions may occur after injections. There is a low risk of serious reactions, but they can occur. Therefore, people who are considering allergen immunotherapy need to discuss the potential risks of having a reaction versus the benefits of reducing or eliminating allergy symptoms.
Allergen immunotherapy can be a cost-effective treatment for allergies. Be sure to check with your health plan or insurance company so that you know what benefits will be provided for you. You may need to get prior approval before you go to see a specialist. If so, be sure to get that approval before your first visit.