Allergies can put a damper on nearly every experience, whether you’re lounging on the couch watching your favorite show or going out to dinner with your friends. Between symptoms like a constantly dripping nose, itchy eyes, and a scratchy throat, allergies are no fun. While traditional treatments, such as antihistamines or corticosteroids, can temporarily alleviate the symptoms, they’re not a long-term fix.

Luckily, there’s an option that can help. Enter allergy immunotherapy. This treatment offers promising results for people suffering from allergies, targeting the root allergy to alleviate the symptoms.

Understanding Allergies

Before we dive into allergy immunotherapy, we need to understand allergies and how they work. In simple terms, an allergy is your immune system’s reaction to a foreign substance called an allergen. These allergens can take multiple forms, such as pet dander, bee venom, or pollen.

Your body produces antibodies, which are blood proteins that counteract a specific antigen. When you’re exposed to the allergen, these antibodies kickstart the chain reaction, communicating with cells that release specific chemicals to initiate your allergic response.

Your allergic symptoms might range from those as mild as a runny nose or itchy eyes to difficulty breathing. In the case of severe allergies, some may even experience anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially life-threatening reaction that requires immediate medical attention.

What is Allergy Immunotherapy?

Allergy immunotherapy (AIT) is a treatment that desensitizes your body to a particular allergen, such as bee venom. It achieves an allergen-specific tolerance by repeatedly exposing your body to the allergen via an injection, tablet, or drops.

The injection, tablet, or drops contain a small dose of the allergen that increases over time, giving your immune system the opportunity to build tolerance. This exposure helps reduce the production of the “blocking” antibody that creates your symptoms, reducing your sensitivity to the allergen.

After consistent doses, you may find that you can enjoy places and experiences that you previously couldn’t. However, it’s important to remember that AIT isn’t a quick fix—it requires years of dedication.

Most people begin to notice subtle changes within the first year, but the best improvements often appear in years two and three. Of course, since everyone is different, your timeline might look different than someone else’s.

Types of AIT

There are two primary types of allergy immunotherapy. The first, called sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT), is administered under the tongue via tablets or drops. The lack of needles and doctor visits with this option makes it a popular pick for kiddos and needle-shy individuals.

The second type is called subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT). With this type, an injection carrying the allergen is administered under the skin using a needle. This option, while the most common of the two, is most frequently used for adults.

The Science Behind AIT

While this might be the first you’re hearing of allergy immunotherapy, it’s nothing new. This revolutionary treatment has been around for over a century. It was originally introduced in 1911 by Leonard Noon and John Freeman, making waves in the healthcare industry.

In the years since its introduction, countless studies and trials have been conducted to evaluate its efficacy. It has proven time and again to be remarkably effective in achieving an allergen-specific tolerance, among other things.

For example, a few research and clinical trials examined subcutaneous injections (allergy shots) in achieving an allergen-specific tolerance. These trials found that repeated allergy shots are effective in achieving an allergen-specific tolerance that persists for years beyond discontinuation.

Another study evaluated AIT’s long-term impact on allergic rhinitis. It found that both sublingual and subcutaneous immunotherapy offer clinical benefits and immunological changes that align with an allergen-specific tolerance.

Yet another study compared a control group to an AIT-treated group, evaluating asthma prescriptions and allergic rhinitis. It found that the AIT-treated group had substantial reductions in asthma prescriptions and allergic rhinitis compared to the control group. Additionally, it found that the AIT-treated group had a higher chance of stepping down asthma treatment.

These studies represent a minuscule fraction of the vast studies and trials out there. Some of the information is even specific to particular allergens, so if you want to learn more about AIT and how it might help your allergy, there’s no shortage of research.

Wrapping Up

Allergy immunotherapy offers promising results for those with allergies. While it isn’t a cure, it can dramatically improve allergies and the resulting symptoms. Some folks may even be able to be around the allergen with little response, allowing them to enjoy places and experiences they previously couldn’t.

If you’re looking for a long-term solution to your allergies, AIT might be a good fit. Of course, remember to talk to your healthcare provider before making any significant changes. They can help you choose the best treatment program based on your medical history.