Allergy shots (immunotherapy) are a
treatment in which small doses of substances to which you are allergic (allergens) are injected under your skin. Over time,
your body may become less responsive to the allergens, which means you may have
Allergy shots are given after careful
skin testing for an allergy. During initial treatment,
allergy shots are given once or twice a week.
This information is for people with
asthma. For complete information on allergy shots, see
the topic Allergic Rhinitis.
You receive allergy shots in your
doctor's office. You will stay in the office for 30 minutes after getting an
allergy shot to be watched for possible life-threatening reactions (anaphylaxis) to the injected allergens.
Redness and warmth at the shot sites are common and go away after a short
period of time.
Allergy shots may be used to help
treat asthma if:2
Allergy shots may be effective in
treating asthma that is caused by an allergen and can reduce asthma symptoms
and medicine requirements.3
Allergy shots are safe if the shots are given
correctly. Redness and warmth at the shot site are common. Overall body
(systemic) reactions such as
hives, asthma symptoms, and low
blood pressure are not common. But people who have asthma
may be at increased risk for a severe reaction (anaphylaxis) to
the shots and, possibly, death. You should have your asthma well controlled
before you receive allergy shots.
Because of the possibility of
anaphylaxis, the shots are given in a doctor's office where emergency care can
be provided if needed. Most reactions to allergy shots occur within 30 minutes
after the injection. You should stay at your doctor's office for at least this
amount of time.
You must report any delayed reaction that you have to a shot. Late reactions can happen any time within 24 hours after a shot.
Reactions may be local (such as a large, red or raised area around the site) or
overall body reactions (such as trouble breathing).
Allergy shots should not be used
If you have a weakened immune system (such as from
HIV infection) or an autoimmune disease (such as
multiple sclerosis), talk to your doctor about whether allergy shots are safe for you.
The possibility of giving doses of allergens under the
tongue (sublingual) instead of by injection is being studied.
Complete the special treatment information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this treatment.
Joint Task Force on Practice Parameters (2011).
Allergen immunotherapy: A practice parameter third update. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 127(1, Suppl): S1–S55.
National Institutes of Health (2007). National Asthma Education and Prevention Program Expert Panel Report 3: Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma (NIH Publication No. 08–5846). Available online: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/asthma/index.htm.
Abramson MJ, et al. (2010). Injection allergen immunotherapy for asthma. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (8). Oxford: Update Software.
March 14, 2013
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
& Lora J. Stewart, MD - Allergy and Immunology
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