Does Immunotherapy Really Work for Allergies?


In the fight against cancer, immunotherapy has proven more than effective. Regardless, immunotherapy’s true power doesn’t lie solely in its ability to fight cancer but in the fact that it can also be used to treat allergies. 

Immunotherapy is a form of therapy that cultures the immune system to fight against targeted disease bodies. 

For allergies, immunotherapy comes in the form of allergy shots, which, more like the cancer kind, transform the immune system to fight against allergies. But does it really work?

Allergy Immunotherapy

That’s the million-dollar question indeed. But guess what? I’ll be giving you those answers for free.

Does Immunotherapy Really Work for Allergies?

Short answer – yes, immunotherapy does work. If you have any allergies, immunotherapy or allergy shots, in this case, lessens your sensitivity to allergy-inducing conditions, cuts off the reactions and gives you peace of mind.

If you can get your head around how vaccines work, you can do the same for allergy shots because they function similarly. First, you’re given regular doses of a particular allergen – the substance responsible for the allergy – which increases over time so that your body can develop immunity. 

Typically, there are two stages to administering these allergy shots: the build-up and maintenance phases.

  • Build-Up Phase

The build-up phase is the first stage and will see you receive regular rising doses of an allergen about once or twice a week. You could do this for three to six months, depending on how frequent the injections are, and then you go to the next stage – maintenance.

  • Maintenance 

Your response to the first phase judges maintenance. Typically, this phase allows for longer periods between injections. So, it’s really important if your reaction to the first phase is positive or not.

Usually, immunotherapy also curbs the development of new allergies and stops some from progressing into diseases.

How Long Does Immunotherapy for Allergies Last?

Putting a definite time cap on immunotherapy for allergies is quite tricky. The frequency of dosages is a determining factor, as well as your response to the treatment. 

However, there are time frames that account for the variances in people’s responses. For example, we’ve mentioned that there are two stages of immunotherapy. The first one takes three to six months, after which a patient moves on to the maintenance stage. 

The maintenance stage could take three to five years before any lasting result. Still, it could be longer. Some people enjoy lasting relief from allergies after immunotherapy, while others have to stay on longer because they relapse as soon as the treatment stops. 

If you’re undergoing immunotherapy, it should be with your physician so they can provide guidance when and where needed.

What are the Risks of Allergy Immunotherapy?

As brightening and relieving as allergy immunotherapy is, it’s not without risks. There are fatal and systemic reactions, among others, and I will outline as much as possible. Fatal reactions to allergy immunotherapy are rare but not impossible and could occur as a result of:

  • High reaction to allergens
  • History of asthma
  • Receiving injections during allergy season
  • Late injections
  • History of systemic reaction
  • Growing allergen dose

On the other hand, systemic reactions occur more often than fatal reactions and may not be as harsh or strong. If you have any of these before immunotherapy, you should refrain and ask proper questions before going on.

  • Cough
  • Abdominal pains
  • Hypotension
  • Urticaria
  • Rhinoconjunctivitis 

The risks mentioned above are all proven by research. But there are also possible risks that are still open to further research, and they include:

  • Positive Rheumatoid factor
  • Brachial Plexus Neuropathy
  • Polyarteritis nodosa
  • Type III immune-complex reactions, etc.

Most physicians and scientific researchers now advise that immunotherapy for a particular patient should be ditched if the cons outweigh the pros. Hence, the reason working in tandem with a physician is so important.

What is the Success Rate of Immunotherapy for Allergies?

Most people would be scared of immunotherapy due to the extensive list of risks outlined above. However, you'd be surprised to know that, for all its risks, immunotherapy for allergy's success rate is on the high side, but that also depends on the type of allergy.

The success rate could be as high as eighty to ninety per cent for certain allergies. It could be lower for other allergies, so I recommend you to take your physician along. 

You also need to consider that immunotherapy is not an antivenom you just pop in and walk away from. Instead, it’s a procedural treatment that takes time, and like all things procedural, you’re likely not to notice any changes until six to twelve months after the start of injections.