John R. Gilmore, MD
10740 N. Central Expressway
Dallas, TX 75231

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Immunotherapy

Tired of your allergies complicating your life? Explore Immunotherapy!

When your immune system considers an allergen harmful to your body, it overreacts, causing an allergic reaction. These reactions cause infections, general discomfort, and can trigger additional health issues.

Your allergies can make a simple walk outside difficult, breathing out of your nose impossible, and can result in lost time, money, and comfort.

You are not alone. Tens of millions of Americans fight troubling reactions to their allergies on a daily basis. But there is hope. Even chronic allergies can be treated.

Are your allergies chronic?

Chronic allergies are one of the most common diseases in the world. While it is possible to outgrow an allergy, meaning what once caused an allergic reaction no longer does, it becomes more difficult with age as your immune system weakens. When an allergy continues to cause an allergic reaction, it becomes chronic.

Medication can provide temporary relief from your current bout with allergies, but medication will not resolve your long-term complications from chronic allergies. One avenue worth exploring for long-term relief from your chronic allergies is immunotherapy.

What is Immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy is a treatment for allergic diseases and cancer. Immunotherapy for allergies is designed for sufferers of chronic allergies. Through allergy shots, immunotherapy helps your immune system adapt to better cope with your allergens. This minimizes and eliminates the negative reactions you have to certain allergens.

Immunotherapy is considered a long-term treatment for allergies. While your body begins to adapt to what once triggered an allergic reaction, your allergic reactions should start to decrease in intensity. It may take years to completely resolve issues, but immunotherapy can provide permanent relief, which isn’t possible from other forms of treatment or commonly prescribed medications.

Note: Immunotherapy is not a recommended treatment for food-based allergies.

What are allergy shots?

The most common form of immunotherapy is subcutaneous injection immunotherapy, also known as “allergy shots.” Allergy shots are given on a regular basis, from 1-3 times a week, at a doctor’s office. Over time, the body adjusts to being exposed to small amounts of these allergens, allowing allergic reactions to minimize and subside.

In addition to minimizing allergic reactions, the effects of allergy shots can also decrease inflammation and prevent infections, including allergic sinusitis. Immunotherapy administered through allergy shots can increase your quality of life, but are they right for you?

Allergy shots are an effective form of immunotherapy.

Are you a good candidate to benefit from allergy shots?

Immunotherapy is a long-term treatment option to resolve chronic allergies. If avoiding your allergic triggers is easy or your allergic reactions are minimal and not obstructing your life, immunotherapy may not be a recommended treatment. Also, if you are only suffering from food-related allergies, immunotherapy will not be an effective treatment.

If you answer yes to one or several of the following questions, you may be a good candidate for allergy shots.

  • Are antihistamines, decongestants, and other medications failing to control your reactions and symptoms?
  • Do the side effects of your allergy medication concern you?
  • Are your allergies causing infections, including sinusitis or ear infections?
  • Do allergies trigger asthma?
  • Is avoiding the things you’re allergic to difficult?
  • Do you want to treat the real problem causing your reaction instead of medicating your symptoms for the rest of your life?

Before making your decision to further explore if allergy shots are the treatment you want to seek out for your chronic allergies, learn how they work, how much they cost, and potential risks below.

Do allergy shots work?

Medications that limit the impact allergies have on your life are temporary. They help you manage the symptoms, but do very little in terms of providing you long-term relief.

For nearly a century, immunotherapy has been a trusted method of minimizing and eliminating diseases related to allergies and asthma. Allergy shots use a similar process to vaccines. When one of your allergens is introduced to your body, you slowly begin to tolerate it.

Allergy shots are administered by a physician or assistant in a doctor’s office, and treatment may last 3-5 years. As time goes by and more of the allergen is introduced, your tolerance increases and the impact that allergen has on your life decreases.

How much do allergy shots cost?

Opting to resolve your allergies with allergy shots in a commitment of time and money. Each week, you will need to make one or several visits to your local doctor, paying for the office visit and for the actual shot. If your physician is located near you and wait times are minimal, making the weekly visits should not be prohibitive.

Fees for each shot depend on your insurance, but can range from around $20-35. There are also costs associated with preparing the shots due to their unique nature. Shots are prepared for each individual based on their allergies.

If and when these shots are effective in reducing your reactions to allergens, you can begin to save on medication expenses. The frequency of allergy shots may also decrease as they reduce your reactions to the allergies currently causing you trouble.

Allergy shots are sometimes an effective option but can be cost preventative.

Are there risks to allergy shots?

As mentioned above, allergy shots inject allergens into a patient’s system to stimulate their immune system. Although the amount of the allergen is small, reactions do occur. According to the Mayo Clinic (1), most people don't experience trouble, but three types of negative reactions are possible:

  • Anaphylaxis

    The most severe of all reactions, anaphylaxis can occur within 30 minutes of an allergy shot causing a patient to experience trouble breathing and low blood pressure. While rare, anaphylaxis is life-threatening.

    If you experience a severe reaction that may be anaphylaxis from an allergy shot, including swelling or troubled breathing, you may need to administer epinephrine and call for medical assistance (911) immediately.

  • Local Reactions

    Local reactions appear around the area where the shot was administered within several hours. The reaction resolves quickly and usually appears as light irritation (swelling, redness).

  • Systemic Reactions

    Less likely to occur than local reactions, systemic reactions can be more serious and result in sneezing, congestion, and hives. In severe cases, systemic reactions may result in tightness in the chest, wheezing, and swelling of the throat.

Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT)

Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) is a relatively new alternative to subcutaneous injection immunotherapy (allergy shots) that began in Europe. SLIT consists of allergy drops instead of shots. Unlike shots, allergy drops can be applied by the patient in their home and are painless.

Allergy drops are applied daily under the tongue. Recommended use is to apply under the tongue and hold for approximately two minutes. SLIT is a popular alternative treatment for children and those who want a painless and convenient long-term treatment option. Results may vary, but treatment is recommended to last at least a year to see permanent improvement.

How much do allergy drops cost?

Allergy drops are convenient, however, they may not be covered in your insurance plan.

Currently, no insurance plan in our market covers sublingual allergy drops. However, this needle-free solution has become quite popular due to its proven safety and convenience. According to Richmond Sinus & Allergy (3), a provider of SLIT, a ten cc vial costs $200 and lasts from 5-10 weeks. They recommend budgeting from $1-2K each year to cover the costs of allergy drops. While not covered in most insurance plans, they may qualify for a tax deduction under healthcare expenses.

Are airborne allergens and sinus issues connected?

Airborne allergens and sinus issues are connected. When allergens are present, the tissue in your nasal and sinus passages can become inflamed and swollen, which can cause congestion and even result in an allergic fungal sinus infection.

Asthma, which can worsen or “flare up” due to the presence of allergens (dust mites, molds, etc.), impacts a sufferers ability to breathe, and can contribute to sinus infections. As many as half of those with moderate or severe asthma are among the 12.5% of Americans with chronic sinusitis according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (2).

Airborne allergens and sinus issues are connected.

Allergy relief from North Texas Sinusitis Center

North Texas Sinusitis Center provides minimally-invasive solutions for issues associated with the ear, nose, and throat (ENT). Dr. Gilmore is an ENT who specializes in treating sinusitis, which can be caused by allergies (allergic sinusitis). Although immunotherapy is not currently available at North Texas Sinusitis Center, our staff will assist you as you explore your options to get relief from your allergies.

Sinus sufferers come to North Texas Sinusitis Center from Dallas, Arlington, Fort Worth, Plano, Wichita Falls, and beyond.

References & Resources

  1. Allergy Shots (Mayo Clinic)
  2. Sinus Infections and Asthma (WebMD)
  3. Immunotherapy (Richmond Sinus & Allergy)