What Is Immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy is when you are given a very tiny amount of the substance/allergen (via shots or drops) to which you are allergic, enough to stimulate your immune system but not so much as to cause a full-blown allergic reaction. Over time, your immune systems will build up a tolerance to the allergen and allergy symptoms will diminish. Both forms of Immunotherapy are sophisticated allergy treatments and proven to be highly effective.
Once a diagnosis is achieved, our skilled allergy team will advise you on all appropriate treatment options. This may include one of the following:
- Subcutaneous immunotherapy – SCIT: Allergy Shots
- Sublingual immunotherapy – SLIT: Allergy Drops
Why Is Immunotherapy Important?
Unlike antihistamines and other allergy medications, immunotherapy at St. Louis Sinus Center treats the condition itself. When your body is exposed to repeated small but increasing doses of allergens this desensitizes your immune system, alleviating the typical allergic responses of sneezing, runny nose, and the like. Eventually, your body becomes tolerant of the allergen.
Allergy shots and drops have been shown to decrease symptoms of many allergies. This immunotherapy can prevent the development of new allergies, and in children, it can prevent the progression of allergic diseases from allergic rhinitis to asthma.
Patients receive subcutaneous immunotherapy, or allergy shots, when trying to treat allergic conditions affecting the nose and eyes, ears, and lungs. They are effective for heading off reactions to many allergens, including mold, house dust, animal dander, and insect stings.
Before receiving your allergy drops, allergy testing is performed to confirm your antigens. Dr. Gould will then inject an extract of a small amount of the allergen into the patient’s arm. Treatments are typically given once a week, but sometimes more often, for about seven months.
An Alternative To Allergy Shots – Allergy Drops
Sublingual Allergy Drops
Sublingual Allergy Drops are an alternative to allergy shots. Like shots, allergy drops give patients a small dose of what they are allergic to on a regular basis – allowing them to eventually become immune to the allergen or lesson their symptoms.
Unlike allergy shots, allergy drops puts small amounts of the allergen under the tongue in a sugar solution every day. This can be done in the convenience of the patient’s home until the solution need to be refilled. By not having to come into the office for shots and waiting after the administration, allergy drops are extremely convenient and a huge time saver.
Who Is A Good Candidate For Immunotherapy?
If you suffer from allergic rhinitis or allergic asthma, allergy shots and drops are a great option to decrease or, in some cases, completely relieve your allergic reactions to allergens such as grass or tree pollen. These are not recommended for children under the age of 5. Also, immunotherapy is not used for food allergies.
If any of these issues sound like you, you’re a good candidate for immunotherapy at St. Louis Sinus Center:
- If medications are not effective for controlling your symptoms.
- If the medications used produce too many side effects.
- If you’d rather treat the cause, rather than just trying to manage the symptoms.
- If your allergies cause complications such as ear infections.
- If you are at risk of developing anaphylaxis when exposed to allergens (but not food allergies).
- If medications do reduce your symptoms, but as soon as they expire your symptoms immediately return.
- If you are unable to fully avoid triggers of your allergies (such as pollen).
- If the cost of ongoing medications is a burden (allergy shots are very cost effective when compared with long-term medication use).
Why Should I Choose St. Louis Sinus Center For My Immunotherapy Treatments?
Dr. Gould, founder of the St. Louis Sinus Center, is a board-certified otolaryngologist, and a fellow of the American Rhinologic Society, American Academy of Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery, and American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy. He is recognized as one of the pioneers of in-office balloon sinus dilation.
This is the background and expertise we bring to our immunotherapy treatments. Dr. Gould oversees the administration of allergy drops for home consumption.
Overall, immunotherapy really fits our practice philosophy at St. Louis Sinus. Rather than simply use medication to treat the symptoms, immunotherapy instead works like a vaccine, helping the patient build up his or her own immunity to the allergen. In many patients, this can allow them to be medication and allergy-free. This takes typically from 3-5 years, but our patients feel the time is well worth it to finally be free of the sneezing, itchy eyes, and other symptoms of allergic rhinitis or allergic asthma.
“Dr. Gould and his staff are knowledgeable, friendly, and time-efficient! I would HIGHLY recommend this team if you have any sinus/allergy issues!”
“The staff here is very professional and they treat me well. They are actively working to help me manage my sinus issues help with my allergies. I would definitely recommend them to anyone sinus issues.”
Are There Any Risks Or Side Effects With Immunotherapy?
Side effects most often occur during the first week of treatment. They are typically mild and include:
Side Effects Of Allergy Drops:
- Throat irritation
- Itchiness of the lips, inside of the mouth, or of the ears
- Sores on the tongue or in the mouth
- Swelling of the tongue or inside the mouth
Side Effects Of Allergy Shots:
- Redness, swelling or irritation at injection sites (typically clear within a few hours)
- Systemic reactions such as sneezing, nasal congestion, or hives (these are less common)
With both methods, the most severe side effect is anaphylaxis, but this is rare.