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Allergen immunotherapy


If you have allergies, you might think you’re stuck with them—and their frustrating symptoms—for life. For some people, that’s not necessarily true! That’s because there’s a type of therapy called allergen immunotherapy that helps prevent or minimize the symptoms of chronic allergies. You’ve probably heard it called “allergy shots,” but allergen immunotherapy goes by many names, including SLIT, for sublingual immunotherapy, and SCIT, for subcutaneous immunotherapy. No matter the name, the treatment is the same—introduce the offending allergen into your system, slowly, over long periods of time, to build immunity. And yes—a long-term commitment can be hard (especially for those of us who move apartments every six months), but if you have allergies, you might be more than willing to explore this option! Here’s the 101 on allergen immunotherapy: It’s kind of like taking a vaccine for a condition you already have. Your allergy symptoms are caused by your body’s response to a substance (allergen) that you inhale, touch, or eat. When your immune system senses that allergen, it confuses it with a foreign invader, like the flu virus or common cold. In fact, your immune system will go into overdrive every time you encounter the offending allergen, triggering an allergic reaction. If you go the route of allergy shots (SCIT), you’ll need to get them at a provider’s office because of the risks of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction. With SLIT, instead of injecting the allergen under the skin, the dose is given under the tongue. There are two types of SLIT—tablets and drops, but only tablets are currently FDA approved. Typically, the first dose is given under medical supervision. Will it work for you? Both SCIT and SLIT can help you build resistance to the annoying effects of an allergen and relieve your symptoms. And SCIT has a proven (100-year) track record of working against allergies and preventing new ones from developing. Four types of SLIT tablets are now available and are considered safe and effective. As with many treatments, the benefits of allergen immunotherapy vary from person to person. Lots of people experience complete relief after following a full course of treatment, while some people see a reduction in their allergy symptoms after a few months, but it can take up to one year before the full results to kick in.

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