What You Should Know About Immunotherapy And Stinging Insect Allergies

Posted on: 1 September 2015


If you've been diagnosed with a stinging insect allergy, it's important that you are proactive about both avoiding the hazard and treating the condition if you're exposed. In addition to providing avoidance tips and a sting kit to treat allergic reactions, your allergist may also recommend immunotherapy. Often referred to as 'allergy shots,' immunotherapy can provide you with long-term management of stinging insect allergies. Here's a look at the basics of immunotherapy to help you decide if it's right for you.

How Does Immunotherapy Work?

Immunotherapy treatments expose your body to small amounts of the allergen via an injection. The repeated exposure to the allergen encourages your body to develop a tolerance for it, reducing the risk of significant reactions. This is much like the way that a vaccine works.

Immunotherapy is administered in stages. It starts with the build-up stage, which is when you receive injections of gradually increasing amounts of the allergen. You'll usually visit a couple of times a week for a few months for this phase. Then, the second phase is maintenance. This involves routine visits once every few weeks to keep your body's immunities consistent. This phase often continues for several years to ensure that your body has built a lasting resistance to the stinging allergen.

Is Immunotherapy Effective?

Immunotherapy can help to decrease the symptoms of a variety of allergies. It can help to reduce the risk of developing additional allergies, too. The actual effectiveness of immunotherapy will depend on how long you receive treatment and how much of the allergen you receive.

There are several reasons why you may not successfully respond to immunotherapy. For example, if the dose of the allergen isn't enough for your body to trigger a response, that may render it unsuccessful. If you are allergic to something that wasn't identified in the initial assessment, that can also mean your treatments are ineffective. Sometimes, high levels of other allergens can interfere with your body's ability to respond to the treatment as well, making your immunotherapy treatments less effective than they could otherwise be.

Who Are Good Candidates for Immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy is a viable option for kids and adults, but children under five aren't always ideal candidates because they cannot typically articulate any complications or symptoms that they may be having as a result of the treatments. Your allergist will also consider your overall health. If you have a cardiac condition, you may not be a good candidate, either.

Your allergist and immunologist will evaluate many things, including the severity of your symptoms, how well any medications have been working to manage your symptoms, and how committed you are to making all of the appointments. You have to be able to put the time in for the appointments or the therapy will not be effective at all.

What Are the Risks of Immunotherapy?

In most cases, you'll experience very little in terms of a reaction to immunotherapy treatments. You may experience some swelling and redness where you got the injection. It could be up to a few hours after treatment before redness appears, though it can occur almost immediately after the injection. Additionally, you may experience symptoms such as hives, nasal congestion or sneezing.

Your doctor will watch for any signs of severe reactions before allowing you to leave, though. The biggest concern from immunotherapy is anaphylaxis. This reaction involves swelling in your throat, tightness in your chest, wheezing, dizziness and nausea. In order to be sure that you are safe from this type of reaction, you'll probably have to stay at the doctor's office for about a half-hour or so after the injection. That way, if you do have a reaction, your doctor can ensure that you receive immediate medical treatment.

Visit a site like http://www.oakbrookallergists.com to learn more about stinging insect allergies.