With extensive research and clinical trials demonstrating its efficacy, allergy immunotherapy has become a popular choice for many seeking a solution to their allergy symptoms. In this article, we will explore the benefits, types, and research behind allergy immunotherapy to help you make an informed decision about this treatment option.
What Are Allergies?
An allergy is a reaction in the body to a foreign substance. Your immune system makes substances called antibodies, blood proteins that counteract a specific antigen. When you have an allergy to something, like pet dander, your body produces antibodies that place a red flag on those allergens, identifying them as harmful even though they aren’t.
This causes the flare-up of symptoms you experience anytime you come into contact with that allergen. These symptoms can vary drastically based on the person, ranging from mild discomfort to anaphylaxis, a severe and emergent condition that can be life-threatening.
Understanding Allergy Immunotherapy
Allergy immunotherapy is a treatment designed to “train” the body not to react to various substances, such as pollen, bee venom, or pet dander. This treatment helps teach your immune system to become less sensitive to a substance, aiding in reducing the production of the “blocking” antibody responsible for creating the symptoms.
It works by giving increasing doses of the allergen to the person who is allergic. The treatment starts with minuscule doses of the allergen, incrementally increasing the amount over time to reduce immune system sensitivity.
Immunotherapy for allergies can be incredibly effective, with most individuals experiencing the full effects of the treatment within one to three years of starting it.
For example, perhaps you’re allergic to dog dander, yet you love having a furry companion around. In this case, you might use immunotherapy to reduce your sensitivity to dog dander.
Types of Immunotherapy
There are two primary types of immunotherapy: subcutaneous immunotherapy and sublingual immunotherapy. Subcutaneous (under the skin) immunotherapy is administered via an injection. This is the most common type of allergy immunotherapy and is highly effective.
Sublingual (under the tongue) immunotherapy is administered under the tongue using tablets. While allergy drops are occasionally available, they’re not FDA-approved in the United States. This method is used as an alternative for treating allergies without injections.
Benefits of Immunotherapy
Immunotherapy for allergies can offer a remarkable range of benefits. It can help significantly decrease symptoms of many allergies, allowing you to experience things without discomfort when that allergen is present. For example, perhaps your friend has a dog, and after doing immunotherapy, you can spend time at your friend’s house without experiencing uncomfortable symptoms.
The Research Behind Immunotherapy
Leonard Noon and John Freeman originally introduced allergen desensitization or hypo-sensitization in 1911. Today, allergen desensitization is commonly called allergy immunotherapy (AIT). Since its introduction over a century ago, extensive research has been conducted on allergy immunotherapy.
For example, one European study examined AIT-treated subjects and found that the treatment was consistently associated with more significant reductions in allergic rhinitis and asthma prescriptions than the control subjects. This study included both asthma controller and reliever prescriptions. On top of that, the study found the AIT group had a substantially greater likelihood of stepping down asthma treatment.
Other research and clinical trials demonstrate the efficacy of repeated subcutaneous injections in achieving an allergen-specific tolerance that offers clinical benefits for years after discontinuation.
The research is abundant and displays the intriguing potential for allergy relief through immunotherapy. Of course, every individual is different, so the timeframe for allergy relief and best-suited method varies from one person to the next. Your healthcare provider can help you determine a good option for your needs.
Allergy immunotherapy has been proven to be a highly effective treatment for allergies. By “training” the immune system to become less sensitive to allergens, allergy immunotherapy can significantly decrease allergy symptoms, allowing individuals to experience things that would otherwise be uncomfortable.
With two primary types of immunotherapy and a wide range of benefits, immunotherapy for allergies is an excellent option for many individuals. Extensive research and clinical trials have demonstrated the efficacy of this treatment, making it a promising option for allergy relief. If you think you might benefit from allergy immunotherapy, speak with your healthcare provider to determine the best approach for your needs.