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5 Ways to Beat Spring Allergies

One of the nation's top allergy experts explains how to control and treat spring allergies this year.

Allergy Shot Basics

About half of people with seasonal allergies say they do fine with over-the-counter medication, according to Sublett. The other half have moderate to severe allergies that may often leave them impaired -- missing work, missing school, or showing up but barely functioning. Some people are helped by prescription medications, but many could benefit from allergy shots, Sublett says.

Immunotherapy for allergies -- commonly known as "allergy shots" -- works by exposing the immune system to small amounts of an allergen. Over time and in increasingly larger doses, the body learns not to see it as a foreign invader and develops a tolerance to it. If neither OTC nor prescription medications do the trick, and you're suffering miserably through spring, fall, or both, then allergy shots may be the answer for you.

When allergy shots were first developed (they've been around since the mid-20th century), the process took years to be fully effective. But today, you can begin allergy shots in January and have a good chance that your symptoms will be significantly decreased, if not eliminated, by the time the first tulips peek out in April.

Clustering is an even more aggressive approach. It takes more of your time at the outset, but you can build up to full effectiveness within just four to five weeks. "Two times a week, you'll come in to the allergist's office for a couple of hours. You get one shot, and then wait, and then get another shot later in the visit," says Sublett.

No matter which approach you take, once you reach the maintenance level with allergy shots -- that is, you've built up a tolerance to your allergens, and your symptoms have become minimal -- your allergist will gradually decrease the frequency of your injections. Ultimately, you'll need them only once every month or so throughout the year, and after a few years you may even be able to discontinue them altogether without having your allergies return.

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Reviewed on March 24, 2011

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