If you’re like me, I don’t think of allergies during the holiday season. But wait. Spring season here in Tulsa is less than 3 months away, and this year we’ll probably have a #COVID-19 vaccine by the time Spring hits in full bloom. I’m quite amazed at the ignorance surrounding the use of allergy shots, even by physicians.
- So really now, if allergy shots work so well, why doesn’t everyone use “allergy immunotherapy?” Good point, and there are several reasons, why I wouldn’t expect any benefit from shots.
- First of all, if you don’t have allergy, you’re not going to benefit from the process we call desensitization or allergy shots. Allergies are caused by IgE and if you don’t have this molecule or antibody, you can’t receive benefit from allergy shots. Sorry. Many times, testing is minimally positive and your results from allergy shots will not be as good, but you can get some help if you’re using the right medication. You may not benefit from OTC Flonase–why don’t you ask your provider to prescribe Atrovent (ipratropium) or Astelin? They work much better than Flonase and you don’t have to use them everyday!
- Ever wonder if allergy shots are all the same? No, they are not. In fact, some allergy shots are so dilute, they don’t improve your symptoms of allergic rhinitis at all. In order to lose your sensitivity to allergens, your body has to identify the culprit and then take the appropriate steps to “eliminate” the intruder. Think of it as someone stealing your TV–if it gets stolen when you’re not home, not much you can do about that because the police never arrive. Similar to your immune system, you must be alerted to the presence of a foreign allergen (such as tree pollen) before your body reacts and eliminates the threat.
- Sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion don’t all have to be a result of allergic rhinitis. #Chronic sinus infections can also present with the exact same symptoms. So, if you don’t have the correct diagnosis of why your nose runs, allergy shots won’t do you a lick of good. How do I determine if I’ve got a sinus infection? That’s where I come in! Often, you’ll find me ordering a CT (CAT scan) of the sinuses to make sure you won’t be taking allergy shots for an infection that won’t improve with this treatment. You’d be wasting your time and money. Here’s the difference between chronic sinusitis and normal sinuses.
Is there more to treating allergies than just shots? We’ve discussed having the right diagnosis, using the proper amount of allergy serum, and making sure your sinuses look normal on a specialized x-ray called Coronal CT scan. One final condition you might want to consider is immunodeficiency. With allergies, your body makes too much IgE (remember that one) directed against pollen and mold, but with immunodeficiency, you body doesn’t make enough IgG to fight infection. Not a good problem to have, but getting allergies confused with immunodeficiency can be a problem. And a big one at that! I check your immune system with a series of blood tests that tell me if you make the right type of antibodies and I make sure they “stick” to unwanted bacteria/infections. It’s a tragedy when the fix for low antibody production is a simple vaccination and you spend years on allergy shots for the wrong reasons.
Don’t be discouraged…if you’re properly diagnosed with allergic rhinitis, desensitization with allergy shots can be life-saving and change your quality of life beyond your expectations. However, allergy shots aren’t for everyone, and if you don’t even have the right condition, you’ll be on shots without benefit for a very long time.