DESENSITISATION

Often referred as Allergy Immunotherapy or allergy shots, this is a long-term medical treatment for patients suffering with allergies. It’s the closest thing to a cure for allergies.

It is particularly effective for treating the symptoms of allergic rhinitis, allergic asthma, conjunctivitis (eye allergy) or an allergy to stinging insects.

Allergy shots offer lasting relief of allergy symptoms even after the treatment. It’s a cost effective and extremely beneficial treatment for any patient who suffers with allergies.

The treatment is administered gradually with increasing doses of allergen extracts by injection or drops/tablets under the tongue, often over a period of years.

Who Can Benefit from Immunotherapy?

Both adult and children patients with certain allergies may be suited to allergy shots. There are, however, a few criteria that need to be met by children under the age of 5 years old, and by older patients with medical conditions such as cardiac disease.

Allergy shots are not used to treat food allergies. The best option for people with food allergies is to be strict about removing that food from their diet.

The decision to have allergen shots should be made together with the doctor and should be based on:

•    Length of allergy season and severity of your symptoms
•    How well medications and/or environmental controls are helping your allergy symptoms
•    Your desire to avoid long-term medication
•    Time available for treatment (allergy shots require a significant commitment)
•    Cost, which may vary depending on region and insurance coverage

What Does Immunotherapy Treatment Involve?

Following the decision to proceed with treatment, the doctor will refer you to an allergy specialist to undergo allergy testing.  Physical examination is done to assess general fitness, if you are severely asthmatic it is less likely that you will be considered for treatment – severe allergic reactions to immunotherapy, although rare, are most dangerous in asthma patients.

Aside from physical assessment, the allergy specialist will perform a Skin-Prick Test or Skin Patch test and sometimes will ask you to do a blood test for allergic antibodies.

Skin-Prick Test  This involves a series of small needle pricks in one marked area of the body and placing a drop of solution containing a possible allergen on the pricked skin. If the skin develops a red, raised itchy area (called a wheal), it usually indicates an allergy to that allergen. This is called a positive reaction.

Skin Patch Test – This test is done using the allergen solution placed on a pad, which is then taped to the skin, usually on your back, for 24 to 72 hours. You will return to meet with the allergy specialist after 24 hours for an initial assessment of any reaction, with a second assessment after 2 days. This test is used to detect contact dermatitis.

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