The Science Behind Allergy Immunotherapy: Exploring How It Works

Allergies can put a noticeable damper on your life, preventing you from enjoying various experiences and places, from frolicking in a field of pasture grasses to spending time at the local animal shelter. But luckily, there might be a solution to your allergies that goes beyond treating the symptoms. Enter allergy immunotherapy. 

This treatment helps reduce your body’s sensitivity to an allergen over time, allowing you to enjoy the things you love most without a looming cloud of allergy symptoms. But how does it work? Is it effective? Let’s find out. 

What is Allergy Immunotherapy?

Allergy immunotherapy (AIT) is a treatment that helps reduce sensitivity to an allergen. Unlike the allergy treatments doctors often provide, including corticosteroids, antihistamines, and decongestants, that focus on the symptoms, AIT targets the allergy. 

It’s proven to be a powerful tool in addressing a wide range of allergies to various allergens, from pet dander and bee venom to pasture grasses and pollen. 

Types of Allergy Immunotherapy

There are two main types of immunotherapy for allergies: subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT) and sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT). Subcutaneous immunotherapy refers to injectable forms of the allergen that are administered under the skin, while sublingual immunotherapy covers tablets and drops containing the allergen that are administered under the tongue. 

SCIT is the more common approach in AIT and is highly effective, but since it involves needles and frequent injections, it may not be suitable for everyone. It typically requires regular visits to an allergist or doctor’s office, as the injections need to be administered under a physician’s observation, as adverse reactions can occur, although they’re rare. SLIT is often the preferred choice for needle-shy individuals and children, as it doesn’t involve frequent visits to the doctor’s office or regular injections. 

How Allergy Immunotherapy Works

To understand how allergy immunotherapy helps reduce your body’s sensitivity to an allergen, you’ll need to understand the basics of an allergy. Simply put, an allergy is a reaction in your body to a foreign substance known as an allergen, such as pet dander, bee venom, pollen, pasture grasses, or specific foods. 

Your immune system naturally creates antibodies, blood proteins that counteract a specific antigen. These antibodies identify the allergen as harmful, so when your body comes into contact with it, the antibodies trigger a reaction. They communicate with cells that release specific chemicals, causing your allergic symptoms. 

Your symptoms may be as mild as itchy eyes and a runny nose or as severe as anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening and emergent allergic reaction. 

So, to reduce your body’s immune response and alleviate the resulting symptoms, the treatment administers a small, incrementally increasing dose of the allergen. The dose helps reduce the production of “blocking” antibodies that create the symptoms, slowly helping your body limit its sensitivity to the allergen. 

The process takes time, involving slightly larger doses of the allergen each time. In most cases, people begin to notice the benefits within the first year of treatment. However, it usually takes two to three years for the complete results to appear. Some people may need to continue the treatment indefinitely to continue enjoying the results, while others may discontinue it without losing these benefits – it all depends on you and your allergy. 

The Research Backing Allergy Immunotherapy

Allergy immunotherapy has been around for more than a few decades. In actuality, it’s been around for over a century, with its introduction dating back to 1911, when Leonard Noon and John Freeman introduced it as allergen desensitization or hyposensitization. 

In the decades that followed its introduction, numerous researchers and healthcare professionals have delved into the specifics of immunotherapy, carefully evaluating its efficacy and applications through various studies and trials. The research is abundant, displaying the remarkable efficacy of AIT in treating a range of allergies and conditions. 

For example, a European study evaluated allergy immunotherapy alongside allergic rhinitis and asthma prescriptions. It compared AIT-treated individuals versus a control group, finding that the former was consistently associated with significant reductions in both allergic rhinitis and asthma prescriptions. It also discovered this group had an elevated chance of stepping down asthma treatment compared to the control group. 

Other studies further attest to AIT’s efficacy. Several research and clinical trials focused on SCIT, showcasing its efficacy in securing an allergen-specific tolerance that remains even after discontinuation of the treatment. Some studies focus on a particular age group, like young children or children and adolescents.  

The research is extensive, creating a clear trend of how powerful allergy immunotherapy is for addressing various allergies and conditions. If you want to learn more about AIT and what option might be right for your needs, talk to your healthcare provider. 

Wrapping Up

Allergy immunotherapy has proven time and time again to be a highly effective treatment for various allergies and conditions. Unlike traditional allergy treatments, which target the symptoms, AIT focuses on the allergy itself, helping reduce your body’s sensitivity to an allergen. 

Both SCIT and SLIT have proven to be effective in addressing various allergies, making them a viable option for people from all walks of life. If you’re struggling with allergies and want to pursue a long-term solution, allergy immunotherapy might be what you’re looking for. Talk to your healthcare provider to learn more about this treatment and whether it’s right for you.



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I'm Jethro. I'm a carpenter, and love to build things! You can find me in the garage or at work most days of the week.My sister is Crystal, who you might know from this very blog. Her son Johnny loves video games just as much as I do - so we have a lot of fun playing together!

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