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Is long-term allergy treatment right for you?

reviewed 10/25/2018

Allergy treatment

Is it right for you?

Allergy immunotherapy works to desensitize the immune system. It's usually delivered in the form of injections, but in some cases it may be tablets. In either case, the treatment requires time and patience—but it can bring long-term relief from allergy symptoms. This tool can help you decide if immunotherapy fits your needs.

Do you have hay fever, allergic asthma or an allergy to stinging insects?

If you answered "yes." Help might be at hand. Immunotherapy can be effective for people who have:

  • Allergic rhinitis (hay fever).
  • Allergic asthma.
  • Conjunctivitis (eye allergy).
  • Stinging insect allergy.

If you answered "no." Immunotherapy doesn’t address all allergies. It’s a good fit for people who have:

  • Allergic rhinitis (hay fever).
  • Allergic asthma.
  • Conjunctivitis (eye allergy).
  • Stinging insect allergy.

Are your allergy symptoms severe for long periods of time?

If you answered "yes." It’s one thing to sneeze for a few days every spring. But it’s quite another to have allergy symptoms for weeks or months at a time. If allergies are a big part of your year, immunotherapy can help. It changes the immune system and may help prevent new allergies and asthma.

If you answered "no." Good! It’s one thing to sneeze for a few days every spring. But it’s quite another to have allergy symptoms for weeks or months at a time. If allergies aren’t a big part of your year, your doctor may have options besides immunotherapy that can ease your symptoms.

Have you found medications that effectively control your allergy symptoms?

If you answered "yes." What a relief. Keep working with your doctor to stay on top of your symptoms. And keep in mind that newer medications address allergic diseases—including asthma—with fewer side effects than older medicines.

If you answered "no." Talk to your doctor. Newer medications treat allergic diseases—including asthma—with fewer side effects than older medicines. If your symptoms aren’t controlled with medication, all is not lost. Immunotherapy might be a good option.

Can you stay away from your allergy triggers?

If you answered "yes." That's good. Avoiding allergens can be tricky. Many people who are allergic to dust mites, mold or pollen have a hard time avoiding their triggers. But if you’re allergic to cats and can just stay away, that’s another story. Avoiding triggers might be your best option for addressing allergies.

If you answered "no." Avoiding allergens can be tricky. If you’re triggered by cats, it’s possible to stay away from felines. But if you’re allergic to dust mites, mold or pollen, those are harder to avoid. Your allergist can recommend ways to decrease your exposure. Allergy shots or tablets might be a good long-term plan too.

Do you want to avoid taking allergy medication for the long term?

If you answered "yes." Even if you find medication to control your allergy symptoms, the prospect of taking it long term can be daunting. Immunotherapy can help you say goodbye to medications and provide lasting relief.

If you answered "no." Many people try allergy shots or tablets because they don’t want to take medicine indefinitely. But if you and your doctor have a long-term plan for keeping symptoms in check? You might not need immunotherapy.

Can you dedicate time to immunotherapy?

If you answered "yes." Both allergy shots and tablets are a time commitment:

  • Allergy shots: One or two injections a week. After three to six months, the time between injections can drop to every two to four weeks.
  • Allergy tablets: Take at home three to seven days a week. To stay effective, treatment may take three years or longer.

If you answered "no." Both allergy shots and tablets are a time commitment. You might be looking at shots once or twice a week—or taking allergy tabs every day at home—for months or years. These treatments don’t work with every schedule.

Are you planning to use health insurance to pay for immunotherapy—and do you know how much you’ll be asked to pay?

If you answered "yes." Great! Talking to your doctor and your carrier can help you understand your financial obligations. Keep in mind, too, that the cost of immunotherapy can vary depending on where you live.

If you answered "no." The cost of immunotherapy can vary depending on where you live. Some insurance programs cover it while others do not. Check with your doctor and your insurance carrier to see what kind of financial obligation you may face.

Results

Talk with your doctor about your results, and be sure to ask any questions that came up in this assessment. Together, you can decide what the right next step is for you.

Sources: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology; American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

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