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Patients in Elgin ask, “What is immunotherapy?”

Dr. Noga Askenazi at Advanced Allergy & Asthma Associates - Food Allergy Center of Illinois explains what is immunotherapy?
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Most people don’t have a reaction to pollen, animal dander, or bee venom, but for around 15 million Americans these and other foreign substances cause sneezing, wheezing, swelling, congestion, hives, and rashes. In some cases, these allergens set off a potentially life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis, which can make it hard to breathe and induce a weak pulse, lightheadedness, and shock.

The allergic reaction, demystified

Certain foods, airborne substances like mold and dander, medications, insects, and latex are not inherently dangerous. In some people, though, the body mistakenly sees these harmless substances and reacts. To fight off these perceived dangers, the immune system deploys proteins or antibodies. Intending to defend the body against these triggers, antibodies release chemicals like histamine. This mix of antibodies and chemicals produces your allergy symptoms, ranging from mild irritation to deadly anaphylaxis.

Immunotherapy to the rescue

While it may seem strange from the outset, one way we at Advanced Allergy & Asthma Associates and Food Allergy Center of Illinois treat allergies is by introducing a tiny amount of the substance or substances into your body.

We do so by administering shots that contain a tiny amount of the allergen to stimulate your immune system. It’s a delicate balance because we don’t want to, inject too much, as that could trigger the reaction we’re trying to treat.

Over time, we’ll increase the amount of allergen in each dose. The reason for this gradual increase is to get your body used to the substance it fought. As treatment progresses, your body adapts to the allergen and your immune system tolerates the substance that normally would set off the reaction, so symptoms dissipate.

What to expect

Immunotherapy treatment is generally conducted in two phases:

  • Buildup – Shots are typically given at least once a week for three to six months, with the amount of allergen in each dose gradually increasing
  • Maintenance – Typically, you’ll need to get shots on a monthly basis for at least three to five years

While some people may need ongoing shots to keep symptoms under control, as immunity is restored you may no longer need injections or other medications. We can discuss all items related to the question of “What is immunotherapy?” in Elgin to identify if this treatment is best or if you might be a better candidate for other approaches. Call our local office conveniently located off I-90 at 847 888 8802.

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