A common treatment for allergic rhinitis is allergy shots. This is a type of immunotherapy. It can decrease the body's reaction to an allergen.

Allergy Shots

Allergy shots may be used if basic allergy care does not work. It may be used if:

  • Medicine is causing problems
  • Medicine is not bringing enough relief
  • Allergen exposure cannot be controlled

How It Works

A tiny amount of the allergen is injected into the skin. 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. The dose of allergen will be slowly increased as your body adjusts. This allows your body to get used to the allergen and stop overreaction.

Shots are reduced to once every 2 to 4 weeks in the maintenance phase. You may need to be checked with skin tests to see how your body is reacting. 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 basis. It will take a 3 to 5 year commitment on your part to get them. If you miss 1 or more shots, you may need to start all over again.

Side Effects

There may be itching, redness, or a small hives at the injection site. This will go away in 1 to 2 hours. Sneezing, and itchy eyes, throat, hands, or feet can also happen but it is rare. Some people may have an asthma attack. Most reactions will happen within 20 minutes of the shot. Staff will monitor people after each shot for at least 20 minutes. This will allow quick treatment for severe reactions.

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. Women can continue maintenance level shots if they become pregnant.

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

Sublingual immunotherapy uses a small pill instead of shots. The pill dissolves under the tongue. This method is more popular in Europe. More research is needed to see if it is as effective as shots.

REFERENCES:

Allergic rhinitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/allergic-rhinitis. Updated July 9, 2018. Accessed February 14, 2020.

Allergic rhinitis treatment. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America website. Available at: https://www.aafa.org/allergy-treatments/. Updated March 2018. Accessed February 14, 2020.

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 February 14, 2020.

Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD  Last Updated: 10/27/2020