Getting the Most Out of Your Allergy Shots

Maintenance Dose

Once the allergy shot maintenance dose has been reached, the intervals between allergy shots can be gradually increased to 2, 3, and even 4 weeks apart. Reaching the maintenance dose can take anywhere from 6 months to 3 years.
 
The amount of time needed to reach the maintenance dose for allergy shots can be reduced to as little as a few days with "rush" allergy shots. Patients receive increasing doses of the allergens several times a day for three or four days. This requires close medical observation because the frequent schedule greatly increases the risk of anaphylaxis. That risk, plus the inconvenience of spending several days all at once at the doctor's office or in a clinic, makes rush allergy shots unpopular with many patients and physicians.
 

Effectiveness

If allergy shots are working, the patient normally feels the benefit within a year, sometimes within 6 months. It is usually necessary to continue allergy shots for a couple of years at least, but the idea is to continue only if the treatment is effective, not just in the hope that someday it may help. Fruitless allergy shot treatment should not drag on for years.
 
Anywhere from 3 to 5 years of treatment is the usual recommendation. The reason for that is the long-term remission of symptoms after the allergy shots stop seems to be better. If you give a patient allergy shots for only a year or 2, even if they've had a good year, there's some indication that the relapse rate might be higher.
 

Allergy Shots and Lifestyle Changes

Allergy shots are just one part of this therapy. Good avoidance measures are also very important (see Preventing Allergies).
 
Usually, outdoor allergens can't be completely avoided. Most people can't stay inside all the time, and, in any case, pollen comes inside through open doors and windows and on people's clothes, hair, and shoes. Here are some ways to keep pollen out of the house:
 
  • Keep all windows closed.
     
  • Put a permanent air filter specially designed to keep out pollens and other airborne contaminants in the heating and cooling systems. Be sure to wash the filter every month.
     
  • Change clothes after coming in from outside, and wash the clothes before wearing them again.
     
  • Keep dirty clothes out of the allergic person's bedroom.
     
  • Wash the allergic person's hair every night to avoid transferring pollen from hair to pillow.
     
Some indoor allergens are also difficult to avoid, but they can be reduced. House dust mites, although they are so tiny you can't see them with the naked eye, can cause big allergic reactions in susceptible people (see Dust Mite Allergy).
 
When it comes to dust mites, it's hard to get rid of them. Mites like to live in box springs, mattresses, pillows, and carpets. To keep the mite population down, the allergic person's mattress, box spring, and pillows should be encased in special covers available from companies that make allergy-proof products. Washable curtains should be the only window coverings.
 
For those with a pet allergy, the simple answer, giving up a beloved cat or dog, is often unacceptable. To increase the success of shots, animals should be kept out of the bedroom. Giving pets a weekly bath may help reduce the amount of dander they release into the air.
 
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Allergies Prevention

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