For lots of people, allergy treatment is reactive. You get stuffed up, your eyes water, and then you go to the medicine cabinet for relief. But many doctors say that we’ve got it the wrong way around. Instead, we should be taking the medicine before we have symptoms. Call it allergy pretreatment.
“We always tell people to start taking medicine before the allergy season begins,” says Jonathan A. Bernstein MD, an allergist and professor of clinical medicine at the University of Cincinnati. “People...
At first, you’ll go to your doctor once or twice a week for several months. You’ll get the shot in your upper arm. It'll contain a tiny amount of the thing you’re allergic to -- pollen, pet dander, mold, dust mites, or bee venom, for example.
The dose will go up gradually until you get to what’s called a maintenance dose. After that, you’ll usually get a shot every 2-4 weeks for 4-5 months. Then your doctor will gradually increase the time between shots until you’re getting them about once a month for 3-5 years. During that time, your allergy symptoms will get better and may even go away.
If your symptoms don’t improve after a year of shots, talk with your doctor about other treatment options.
How Should I Prepare for Allergy Shots?
You may want to avoid exercise or doing anything strenuous for 2 hours before and after your appointment. That’s because exercise boosts blood flow to the tissues and may cause the allergens to spread throughout your body faster. It’s not likely to cause a serious problem, but it’s best to be safe.
Tell your doctor about any other medicines or herbs and supplements you take. Some medications interfere with the treatment or raise the risk of side effects. You may need to stop allergy shots if you take these medications.
If you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant, ask your doctor whether you should continue to get allergy shots.
What Should I Expect Afteward?
Usually, you’ll stay at the doctor’s office for about 30 minutes after you get an allergy shot. That's to make sure you don't get side effects like itchy eyes, shortness of breath, a runny nose, or a tight throat. If you get these symptoms after you leave, go back to your doctor's office or to the nearest emergency room.
Redness, swelling, or irritation right around the site of the injection is normal. These symptoms should go away in 4 to 8 hours.