Subcutaneous Immunotherapy (SCIT)
Subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT)
For persons who are very allergic to such substances, subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT) otherwise known as allergy shots is a good option. Immunotherapy is the only treatment that actually causes a decrease in the body’s allergic immune response and reduces the dependence on medications. Whether a person should get allergy injections depends upon answers to several questions:
- How bad are your allergy symptoms?
- How allergic are you (measured by skin tests)?
- Can the substances causing the allergic reaction be avoided?
- Are medications not giving you full relief from symptoms?
- Will you be able to receive the injections at regular intervals for a period of time?
Allergen immunotherapy involves injecting the substances to which you are allergic to, into the arm. Injections of these substances over time stimulate the body to produce a non-allergic immune response. This involves producing non-allergic antibodies. Over time, an individual receiving allergy injections develops such a high non-allergic immune response that it signals the immune system to stop making so much of an allergic response
Probable Benefits from Immunotherapy
- Increase tolerance to allergenic substances
- Reduce need for medications
- Reduction in number of sinus infections
- Improve quality of life
- Possibly decrease chances of developing asthma in allergic individuals
- Possibly improving asthma in those who already have it
- Possibly reduce chances for one’s developing more allergies
Immunotherpay begins with dilute injections given with very small needles in the back of the arm, starting at weekly intervals. During the first six months of immunotherapy, which is also called the “build-up” phase, the doses are gradually increased. Since each increase in dose depends upon your response to the last dose, it is crucial that the injections be given on a regular schedule, at approximately weekly intervals. The possibility of adverse reactions to shots increases if not given regularly. Immunotherapy works maximally when the highest doses are reached.
After approximately six months (or longer if an individual is extremely allergic), “maintenance” levels of Immunotherapy are reached. These are the highest doses of immunotherapy given. During the maintenance period, the intervals between injections changes to every two, then every three weeks and finally every four weeks. These changes depend upon your clinical response to immunotherapy and also the season. It is important, therefore, that the physician see you at regular intervals during both phases of immunotherapy.
Generally, Immunotherapy is given for a period of three to five years. The effects of immunotherapy generally last at least five years after treatment is complete. A significant number of people choose to continue receiving maintenance shots (usually once a month) longer than five years because of their good response and for more lasting protection.