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Immunotherapy (Allergy Shots) Definition

The concept behind immunotherapy (allergy shots or allergy tablets) is that the immune system can be desensitized to specific allergens that trigger allergy symptoms.

The allergen(s) are identified through a combination of a medical evaluation performed by a trained allergist / immunologist and allergy diagnostic testing (skin or allergy blood tests).

Allergy immunotherapy is a proven effective treatment for allergic rhinitis, allergic asthma and stinging insect allergy. It also may be effective in some individuals with atopic dermatitis (eczema) if they have allergies to airborne allergens. Currently, immunotherapy for food allergies is not recommended and strict avoidance of the food is advised although investigations with oral desensitization for food allergies are in progress in the United States.

Immunotherapy can potentially lead to lasting remission of allergy symptoms, and it may play a preventive role in the development of asthma and new allergies.

Another form of allergy immunotherapy is called sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) allergy tablets. Rather than shots, allergy tablets involve administering the allergens under the tongue generally on a daily basis. Two are directed at different kinds of grass pollen and one is for short ragweed. The two grass pollen allergy tablets are Oralair® (Stallergenes), which has five kinds of northern grass pollen, and Grastek® (Merck), which has timothy grass pollen. The short ragweed allergy tablet is called Ragwitek® (Merck). These allergy tablets provide an additional option for the treatment of allergic rhinitis/rhinoconjunctivitis triggered by ragweed or timothy/northern grasses. Find out more about allergy tablets.

Learn more about immunotherapy.

Video: Are allergy shots effective?

Video: What are the benefits of immunotherapy?

An allergist / immunologist, sometimes referred to as an allergist, has specialized training and experience to provide immunotherapy treatment. Adverse reactions to immunotherapy are rare but do require immediate medical attention. That is why allergy shots should be administered in a medical facility appropriately outfitted with equipment and staff capable of identifying and treating these reactions.  

The AAAAI's Find an Allergist / Immunologist service is a trusted resource to help you find a specialist close to home.

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