Today, there are approximately 44 million people in the United States of America suffering from allergies and the numbers are increasing. Allergies are caused by hypersensitivity in the body’s immune system. The triggers could range from natural environmental factors like pollen, dust, mites, or mold to external factors that your body comes into contact with, such as food and chemicals in food.
Just as the cause of allergies can be varied, its signs and symptoms could also differ greatly. Some symptoms, like itching and swelling of the throat and nose discharge, are only mildly inconvenient. Others are uncomfortable, such as difficulty in breathing, diarrhea, and vomiting. But in extreme cases, allergies could cause unconsciousness, anaphylaxis (collapse due to allergies), and sometimes even death.
Treatment and Allergy Relief
One form of allergy relief or treatment for people with allergies is injections of small amounts of the substances they are allergic to. The method is called immunotherapy and it is based on the concept that once the immune system gets used to these substances, it will no longer overreact when they see them entering the body’s cellular structure.
But such allergic relief treatment can take time. With each allergy relief injection, the dose is increased, until the patient becomes hyposensitized (less allergic) to the allergens because then, the body becomes more tolerant of these offending substances. As a result, relief from allergy is at hand and the symptoms, including sneezing and watery eyes, plus the need for medication, are reduced or disappear.
Who Should Get the Allergy Relief Shots?
The obvious answer would be those people who very clearly have allergic reactions to certain types of food or environmental factors.
“Shots work extremely well in patients that clearly have allergic symptoms, either allergy in their nose like allergic rhinitis or bronchial asthma, where outdoor allergens like tree, weed and grass pollens seem to be a major cause,” says Stanley P. Galant, M.D., an allergist in Orange County, California, and a clinical professor and director of pediatric allergy at the University of California, Irvine.
He further adds that allergy relief shots don’t have quite the same effect on patients with allergies to molds, house dust mites (microscopic insects that feed on human skin cells found on furniture, bedding, and carpets), and animal dander (tiny skin flakes animals continually shed) as those allergic to outdoor allergens. However, with the standardization of extracts for cat dander and dust mites and overall better preparations have helped increase the odds.
Immunotherapy, however, is not used as an allergy relief unless skin tests or blood tests have been conducted and the exact culprits have been identified.
John Yunginger, M.D., a member of FDA’s Allergenic Products Advisory Committee and a pediatric allergist at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, says, “You have to show that (the patients) have IgE antibodies to the allergens in question.”
IgE, or immunoglobulin E, is an antibody that the immune system produces the first time it is exposed to an allergen. The next time the allergen is produced, massive amounts of these IgE released by the immune system are what triggers the allergic reaction.