Do Allergy Shots Work? Is Immunotherapy Effective?

I have been unknowingly suffering from allergies for years. In the spring and fall I would suddenly become “sick” and nothing I did could get rid of it. It took years for me to discover that it was allergies, not a virus each time, because my allergy symptoms are identical to that of the flu (fatigue, sneezing, itchy throat etc.).

Eventually I figured that I may actually be suffering from allergies, and after taking allergy meds I started to feel much better. The only problem: allergy meds knock me out. Even non-drowsy options make me feel tired and weird. The solution: allergy shots (immonotherapy)!

A trip to the allergist resulted in the following diagnoses: “you are allergic to pretty much everything outside”. Trees, grass, pollen, you name it. Sweet. Also: cats, dust and more. I decided to pursue allergy shots because otherwise I would have to be on debilitating allergy medication year-round.

The allergy shots cost $400 ($200 per set — I need 2 sets because of my many allergies) and I had 75% coverage through my health insurance. At full price you may want to carefully weigh your options, but with health insurance they are a no-brainer.

The worst part about allergy shots is the administration schedule, forcing you to visit a clinic every week for the first month and then every few weeks afterwards. Depending on the severity of your allergies your dose schedule may require more visits or fewer. Of course, if you are afraid of needles then perhaps the frequent needles are the worst part. For me that part is a breeze.

The question is: do allergy shots work? Is Immunotherapy effective?

The result: I received my 4th set of shots a few days ago and my allergy symptoms seem to have all but disappeared. I used to sneeze upwards of 30 times a day and now I am down to 1 or 2. I also feel generally more energetic and clear-headed. It is early August at the writing of this post so ragweed season is ramping up. I will update this post if the allergy shots end up being ineffective against the coming pollen onslaught.. Of course, you can always take allergy medication on top of allergy shots to cover your bases.

For those interested in the science behind allergy shots, the basic principle is simple: they reduce your immune response to allergens. By injecting substances you are allergic to directly into your skin, your body becomes desensitized to those substances. This is the best approach, as it deals directly with the underlying problem (an overreacting immune system) instead of just reducing symptoms like allergy medication. You can learn more here: How Allergy Shots Work.

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