Allergy shots are one type of treatment for asthma that may benefit those with allergies and asthma, called allergic asthma. Also called immunotherapy, allergy shots are not an asthma cure like an injection of antibiotics might cure an infection. Instead, allergy shots work a bit more like a vaccine.
Allergy shots for asthma actually contain a very small amount of an allergen (something you're allergic to). Over time, the dose is increased. By exposing you to greater and greater amounts of the allergen, your body is likely to develop a tolerance to it. If the treatment goes well, your allergic reaction will become much less severe.
Asthma symptoms include episodes of:
Tightness or pressure in the chest
Shortness of breath
Wheezing (a high-pitched whistling sound that occurs when exhaling)
Coughing, especially at night
Early warning signs of the onset of an asthma attack include:
Signs of a cold
Frequent cough, especially at night
The need to use a rescue inhaler
Losing your breath easily (exercise-induced bronchospasm)
A decrease in lung function, as measured by a spirometer or peak flow m...
Allergy shots can reduce the symptoms of allergies and prevent the development of asthma. Allergy shots also appear to help people who already have asthma, although there is some debate about this. One study found that allergy shots for asthma were as effective as inhaled steroids in reducing asthma symptoms.
What to Expect From Allergy Shots for Asthma
Before you get allergy shots for asthma, your doctor will want to do allergy testing. This is a way of finding out which allergens affect you. It will probably involve skin testing, in which a small amount of the allergen is scraped onto or injected under your skin. Allergy shots aren't available for every kind of allergy.
Allergy shots for asthma include shots for:
Once you and your doctor have discovered which allergens affect you, the next step is to get the shots. The frequency of the injections varies, but you might get them once or twice a week for the first three to six months -- or until you reach the maximum dose. After that, you might only need maintenance injections every two to four weeks. This might continue for three to five years.
Although some people feel asthma symptom relief from their allergy injections quickly, it may take up to a year for others. In some people, allergy shots have no effect.
Who Needs Allergy Shots for Asthma?
Allergy shots are not right for everyone. It may not be safe for people who have uncontrolled asthma or other health conditions, such as heart disease. It may also not be a good idea for people taking certain medications, such as beta-blockers. Allergy shots for asthma are not used in children who are under age 5.
Allergy shots for asthma might be considered for people who: