A common treatment for allergic rhinitis is immunotherapy, or allergy shots.

Allergy Shots

Allergy shots may be used on people who:

  • Have problems because of the medicines they take
  • Don't respond to being treated with medicines
  • Have frequent, unavoidable exposures

The reason for having allergy shots is to lower how your body reacts to allergens. A tiny amount of the allergen is injected into the skin. Over time, the dose is raised until your body no longer recognizes it. It works because your body starts to build a protection against the allergens that bother you.

How It Works

At first, you’ll need to get a shot at least once a week. You may need to do this for up to 6 months. Once you get to a maintenance level, you can get a shot every 2 to 4 weeks. You may need to be checked with skin tests to see how your immune system is working. It will take 3 to 5 years to fully go through this process.

The Long-term

Allergy shots need to be done on a regular schedule. It will take a 3 to 5 year commitment on your part to get them. If you miss one or more shots, your immune system may be compromised. This means you may need to start all over again.

Side Effects

You may have itching, redness, or a small hive where you get the shot. This will go away in 1 to 2 hours. Rarely, you may have sneezing, and itchy eyes, throat, hands, or feet. Some people may have an asthma attack. These mainly happen within 20 minutes of getting the shot. You will have to wait this long after a getting a shot. This will allow the healthcare staff to watch you for a reaction.

Who Shouldn't Have Allergy Shots

Allergy shots aren't for people who take beta-blockers. These are used to treat high blood pressure or heart rhythm problems. You may also be advised not to have these shots if you have:

  • A weak immune system
  • Asthma that isn't controlled well
  • Serious lung disease
  • Serious reactions to skin testing
  • Wheezing

If you are pregnant or think you may be, talk to your doctor before you start taking these shots. But, pregnant women who are taking maintenance level shots can still do so.

When to Contact Your Doctor

Call right away for:

  • Any side effects to the shots
  • Any changes in how your allergies respond to the shots
  • Any changes in your medicines

Sublingual Immunotherapy

With sublingual immunotherapy, small amounts of allergens are placed under the tongue. This method is more popular in Europe. While it has shown to ease symptoms, more research is needed.


Allergic rhinitis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116217/Allergic-rhinitis. Updated July 9, 2018. Accessed October 16, 2018.

Allergic rhinitis. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/immunology-allergic-disorders/allergic,-autoimmune,-and-other-hypersensitivity-disorders/allergic-rhinitis. Updated January 2018. Accessed October 16, 2018.

Allergy shots. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology website. Available at: https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/allergy-shots-(immunotherapy). Accessed October 16, 2018.

Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD  Last Updated: 10/16/2018