Allergy medications are often the primary treatment, but some patients may want to consider allergen immunotherapy.
Allergen immunotherapy helps build tolerance to allergens, reducing or eliminating allergy symptoms. It’s available for pollen (grass, tree and ragweed), mold, animal dander, dust mites, cockroach allergens and insect venom.
Here’s how immunotherapy works: the patient is given a gradually increasing amount of the allergen on a regular schedule until a maintenance level is reached.
Two options for allergen immunotherapy are available: allergy shots or tablets, which dissolve under the tongue.
Allergy shots are typically administered once or twice weekly for the first 6-12 months, always in an allergist’s office to guard against a severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis. Depending on the patient’s response, the frequency may then be decreased to once a month. As the patient’s tolerance improves, shots are usually discontinued after 3-5 years. Several different allergens can be combined into one injection.
With under-the-tongue tablets, the patient builds tolerance by taking one tablet per day before and during the allergy season. After the first tablet is taken in the allergist’s office, the patient can take the daily tablets at home, as long as epinephrine auto-injectors are available to treat potential anaphylaxis.
The right fit
First, work together with your doctor to find a suitable immunotherapy plan based on your needs.
Do you want immunotherapy to treat multiple allergens? Allergy shots may be your best choice. Afraid of needles? Tablets may be the way to go. This approach, Shared Decision Making, allows patients to personalize their care.
By partnering with doctors, patients take a more active role in healthcare decisions and selecting tests and treatments. The doctor’s involvement ensures the plan is evidence-based, balances risks and results and aligns with a patient’s preferences and values.
Studies show when patients work closely with doctors to make healthcare decisions together, it improves the patient’s knowledge of their condition and they are more likely to adhere to treatment plans and go to follow-up appointments – key for chronic disease management.
Tonya Winders, President and CEO, Allergy and Asthma Network, [email protected]