Are Allergy Shots Worth It?

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Manya Kidambi ’18
EE Staff Writer

From what seems like forever, people have been allergic to a plethora of substances: pollen, ragweed, almonds, peanuts, and more. Coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, and the works have accompanied many throughout spring, and it is always hard for them to enjoy outdoor activities.

According to an interview by Medscape with Dr. Linda Cox,  president of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, “All of the medications that we have available right now for allergies control the underlying symptoms of allergies, but when you stop those medications, the symptoms will come back. So, in theory, the majority of allergic patients might be good candidates.”

In an interview with Anjeli Sambasivam, a freshman who suffers from seasonal allergies to birch pollen, she mentioned that “[her] symptoms consisted of itchy eyes, a congested nose, and sneezing.”

These are common among those with allergies, and as springtime draws to a close and turns into summer, the absence of these allergies are a relief to many.

Sometimes, when allergies get out of hand, there is a simple cure: immunotherapy injections, or allergy shots.

To the people across the United States, and even worldwide suffering from seasonal allergies each year, the fact that there is something to help weaken the allergies appears beneficial.

The main question that needs to be considered is if these injections are actually worth the commitment. These injections need to be administered about twice a week until the dosage for the injection has reached full strength, or maintenance. After this, there is a possibility of developing some sort of resistance to the substance.

“I would definitely get allergy shots if I could, but I’m reluctant because I know that they take up a lot of time,” said Sambasivam.

As high school students, many would refuse to get these shots because of sports and other activities that may interfere. Furthermore, patients must wait a half hour at the allergy center until the localized itching wears off. Side effects from allergy shots include hives, but in a more serious case, the chest can tighten, causing a medical emergency. Patients cannot engage in strenuous exercise up to two hours after the shot, posing a problem for student athletes.

There is also the concern over needles, as many have a fear of them and would not want to receive injections so often. There is always a bit of pain after the shot, and to endure this twice a week is definitely a disadvantage.

“Patients  are going to have to commit some time to it, because they’ll have to go to a physician’s office weekly in the beginning and then monthly for the 3- to 5-year period that they’re on maintenance,” Dr. Cox tells Medscape.

Undoubtedly, these are the negative reasons behind getting allergy shots, but the real benefits should not be overlooked. Allergy shots can almost eliminate symptoms during spring, and this can help to relieve patients during allergy.

They can resemble that of a cold, but allergy symptoms can last up to three months, while colds go away within two weeks. This confusion may often be a reason why many people do not take immediate action towards the allergy.

Allergy shots can prevent the allergy from worsening or lasting permanently. After allergy shots begin, patients may see improvement within a year due to the first vial being a small concentration of the pollen.

Then, as the patient acquires further resistance to the substance, the concentration of the allergen continues to increase.

Although allergy shots can be used for substances such as pet dander and dust mites, pollen is one of the most common allergens, and patients all over the country receive injections for this.

With time, patients will move to full concentration of the substance,  known as the maintenance dose, and within time, they will be able to have a better grip on their allergy.

“If it meant that my allergies would go away over time, I would definitely get the shots,” said Sambasivam.

The shots can be used for other substances, even peanuts. However, the shots for food allergens are still in the works, and only a few offices in each state may offer them. These may not work as effectively..

As an alternative to allergy shots, there are many ways in which people can gradually improve. For example, local honey contains the pollen of flowers in a certain county, which can be different even throughout a state. One for Trumbull would be made in Fairfield County, and with daily spoonfuls of this honey, somewhat of a resistance can be developed.

Another option is a spray or tablet form. Each day, a patient can take a tablet or spray filled with the same concentration of the substance as the shot. Those who fear needles would benefit greatly from this.

Despite these methods, it is evident that allergy shots are the  most efficient way to handle allergies. They are fast acting, and within time, patients can reach maintenance dose and be rid of allergies almost permanently. Time and patience is required, but with both of these qualities, one can gain control over  their allergy and how they feel each spring.

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