So now you are on allergy shots and you begin to feel better. Not only are your symptoms disappearing, but your need for medication is shrinking as well. At this time, your allergist will suggest spacing the shots out from weekly to every two weeks and eventually to once a month, and sometimes even up to six weeks apart. From recent research, it looks like you need to take allergy shots for a minimum of three years and then you may be protected for three or more years after the injections are discontinued. This study was done only using grass pollen, and when you have more complex allergies, the time for all or most of your symptoms to disappear may be different. Again, this is something to discuss with your own allergist since every patient is not the same.
Can You Eliminate Your Allergy?
So now you know something about allergy shots and how we use them, but what happens in your body to make your allergies go away?
When we give allergy shots into the tissues, the immune system recognizes the allergen in the shot and actually makes antibodies to what is being injected. For example, ragweed vaccine (a common cause of hay fever in the fall) is injected in small amounts and gradually increased. The immune cells make antibodies to ragweed, and these antibodies can even be measured. There are a lot of other changes that occur in the immune system as well. When ragweed enters the body through the nose or lungs, these new antibodies compete with the IgE (the bad guy) allergy antibodies for the ragweed particles or their breakdown products. When the new (blocking) antibodies meet the ragweed, the body disposes of it like garbage, without making you sick, while the old (IgE) antibodies don't have a chance to cause the allergic symptoms. In time, the whole immune system undergoes a shift from making IgE, (think bad guy) to antibodies of the good kind that do not cause allergies. This is why you stay well for years after allergy shots stop. The good guys have won.
So what's in the future? Allergy shots are improving--the material used in your injections as well as the dosing techniques. We also know that there will be another kind of antibody produced through genetic engineering that will seek out your bad IgE and neutralize it. This is the star wars defense for allergy diseases. It may revolutionize treatment. While star wars may be coming in the future, your allergy battles need to be won today, and immunotherapy-allergy shots, an old and reliable treatment, is there with a new face and a new army of fighters to make your allergies come under control and enable everyone to lead a healthier and happier life.