Immunotherapy

ImmunotherapyAllergen immunotherapy involves administering increasing amounts of the same allergen that triggers the patient allergy over a period of months to years in order to reduce or cure his symptoms.

Q: Does it really work?

A: Allergen immunotherapy has been recommended by the W.H.O in 1998, and many studies have shown that immunotherapy can prevent the development of new allergies and, in children; it can prevent the progression of the allergic disease from allergic rhinitis to asthma. It has also showed that immunotherapy can lead to resolution of the allergy symptoms even years after it is stopped.
In asthma, studies have shown that such therapy leads to a reduction of the dose of asthma medications and improvement of asthma symptoms and tests.

ImmunotherapyQ: What diseases can benefit from immunotherapy?

A: Immunotherapy is only recommended for allergic asthma, allergic rhinitis and conjunctivitis, and stinging insect allergy.

Q: Can people at any age receive this treatment?

A: Any adult and any child above the age of 5 can get this kind of treatment if really indicated. Also, there is no upper age limit for receiving immunotherapy.

Q: How does immunotherapy work?

A: Allergen immunotherapy works like a vaccine. Your body responds to the given dose of a particular allergen, administered in gradually increasing doses, by developing an immunity or tolerance to the allergen(s). As a result of these immune changes, immunotherapy can lead to decreased, minimal or no allergy symptoms when you are exposed to the allergen(s) included in the allergy vaccine.

Q: How is it given?

A: Immunotherapy is administered in either two ways: Subcutaneous injection or Sublingual drops taken through the mouth.

The sublingual drops are well accepted by children, put under the tongue for 2 minutes before being swallowed, and taken daily for about 5 months each year.

The subcutaneous injection (similar to insulin injection) is given initially on weekly bases for about 3 months. After this, the time between each injection can be increased gradually to every 4 weeks.

Q: How long it takes before it starts to work?

A: The benefits of immunotherapy start usually after 6 to 9 months. It must be known that while receiving immunotherapy, a patient is advised to continue avoidance measures and the use of his medication, especially if he has an underlying history of asthma.

Q: How long is this treatment for?

A: This treatment is generally continued for a period of 3-5 years.

Q: Is it safe?

A: This kind of treatment is generally safe and well tolerated. However, some people may react to it. Such reactions can be either local or systemic. Systemic reactions are associated with subcutaneous injections, are much less common than local reactions.
Systemic reactions are usually mild and respond rapidly to medications. Symptoms can include increased allergy symptoms such as sneezing, nasal congestion or hives. Rarely, a serious systemic reaction, called anaphylaxis, can develop after an immunotherapy injection.

Q: What can i do to make such treatment successful?

A: It is important to follow these recommendations in order to continue receiving the treatment effectively once you decide to undergo it:

  • DON'T forget to take the vaccine, and take it in the scheduled time.
  • Continue the avoidance measures your doctor gave you and the use of the medications you are on, especially if you have an underlying history of asthma. Later through the treatment, your doctor will decide if you need to lower your dose or discontinue your treatment.
  • If you are on injection immunotherapy, wait in the office for at least 30 minutes after receiving the injection.
  • Inform your treating doctor if any reaction develops after getting your injection.
  • Inform your doctor if your asthma is getting worse before getting the injection.