Nearly 20% of all Americans suffer from environmental allergies. East Tennessee is especially known for the severity and duration of its allergy seasons. Patients are affected by the pain and discomfort of their allergies. In climates like ours, even more people suffer from allergies due to the climate, impressive vegetation and other seasonal factors.
Diagnosis of your allergies can determine the specific causes for your symptoms and help to determine the best treatment for your specific allergy profile. Allergy testing will provide information on what you are allergic to, how allergic to certain things you are and even let us know which things you are not allergic to. With the help of up to date and comprehensive allergy testing, our physicians can effectively diagnose your specific allergies and implement a customized treatment plan.
What Is Immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy is when you are given a very tiny amount of the substance/allergen (via shots or drops) to which you are allergic. This is enough to stimulate your immune system but not so much as to cause a full-blown allergic reaction. Over time, your immune systems will build up a tolerance to the allergen and your allergy symptoms will diminish. Both forms of Immunotherapy are sophisticated allergy treatments and proven to be highly effective.
Once a diagnosis is achieved, our allergy department will advise you on all appropriate treatment options. This may include one of the following:
- Subcutaneous immunotherapy – SCIT: Allergy Shots
- Sublingual immunotherapy – SLIT: Allergy Drops
- Continued Medical therapy and management
Patients receive subcutaneous immunotherapy, or allergy shots, when trying to treat allergic conditions affecting the nose and eyes, ears, and lungs. They are effective for heading off reactions to many allergens, including mold, house dust, animal dander, and insect stings.
Before receiving your allergy shots, allergy testing is performed to confirm your antigens. Our allergy department will then inject a small dose and low concentration of an extract of the allergen into the patient’s arm. Treatments are typically given at our office once a week, but sometimes more often during the beginning of immunotherapy. Shots will typically last for 3-5 years.
An Alternative To Allergy Shots – Allergy Drops
Sublingual Allergy Drops are an alternative to allergy shots. Like shots, allergy drops give patients a small dose of what they are allergic to on a regular basis – allowing them to eventually become immune to the allergen or lesson their symptoms.
Unlike allergy shots, allergy drops puts small amounts of the allergen under the tongue in a sugar solution every day. This can be done in the convenience of the patient’s home until the solution needs to be refilled. By not having to come into the office for shots and waiting after the administration, allergy drops are extremely convenient and a huge time saver.
Why Is Immunotherapy Important?
Unlike oral and topical allergy medications, immunotherapy at Farragut ENT and Allergy treats the condition itself. When your body is exposed to repeated small but increasing doses of allergens this desensitizes your immune system, alleviating the typical allergic responses. You will see a significant reduction in sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, itchy throat and watery eyes. Eventually, your body becomes tolerant of the allergen.
Allergy shots and drops have been shown to decrease symptoms of many allergies. This immunotherapy can prevent the development of new allergies, and in children, it can prevent the progression of allergic diseases from allergic rhinitis to asthma.
Who Is A Good Candidate For Immunotherapy?
If you suffer from allergic rhinitis or allergic asthma, allergy shots and drops are a great option to decrease or, in some cases, completely relieve your allergic reactions to allergens such as grass or tree pollen. These are not recommended for children under the age of 5. Also, immunotherapy is not used for food allergies.
If you have any of the listed issues, you would likely be a good candidate for immunotherapy at Farragut ENT and Allergy:
- If medications are not effective for controlling your symptoms.
- If the allergy medications produce too many side effects.
- If you’d rather treat the cause, rather than just trying to manage the symptoms.
- If your allergies cause complications such as ear infections or asthma.
- If you are at risk of developing anaphylaxis when exposed to allergens (but not food allergies).
- If medications do reduce your symptoms, but as soon as they expire your symptoms immediately return.
- If you are unable to fully avoid triggers of your allergies (such as pollen).
- If the cost of ongoing medications is a burden (allergy shots are very cost effective when compared with long-term medication use).
Overall, immunotherapy really fits our practice philosophy at Farragut ENT and Allergy. We have a strong desire to determine the root cause of your problems and instead of just masking the symptoms with medications, we hope to work with you to cure your underlying allergies. Our goal is to free you from symptoms of allergies. In many patients, this can allow them to be medication and allergy-free. This takes typically from 3-5 years, but our patients feel the time is well worth it to finally be free of the sneezing, itchy eyes, and other symptoms of allergic rhinitis or allergic asthma.
Are There Risks Or Side Effects With Immunotherapy?
Side effects most often occur during the first week of treatment. They are typically mild and include:
Side Effects Of Allergy Drops:
- Throat irritation
- Itchiness of the lips, inside of the mouth, or of the ears
- Sores on the tongue or in the mouth
- Swelling of the tongue or inside the mouth
Side Effects Of Allergy Shots:
- Redness, swelling or irritation at injection sites (typically clear within a few hours)
- Systemic reactions such as sneezing, nasal congestion, or hives (these are less common)
- With both methods, the most severe side effect is anaphylaxis, but this is rare.