How does allergen immunotherapy work?
Allergen immunotherapy works like a vaccine. Whereas a vaccine contains traces of a specific disease or bacteria, allergen immunotherapy contains traces of your specific allergens–the very things that trigger an allergic reaction by your immune system. By gradually increasing the doses of your allergen, your body develops an immunity and/or tolerance to that allergen. In essence, allergen immunotherapy turns off an inappropriate immune response–your allergic reaction to a plant, tree, pet or mold–while still allowing your immune system to respond normally to infectious agents such as viruses/bacteria.
Allergen immunotherapy occurs in two phases:
- Build-up phase: involves a routine of injections/drops with increasing amounts of allergens.
- Maintenance phase: begins when the effective therapeutic dose is achieved. Once this maintenance dose is reached, injections generally become less frequent (drops are given daily).
Allergy immunotherapy is typically continued for a period of several years. Many patients have long-lasting improvement after this treatment is stopped.