If you have tried all available allergy medicines and combinations of allergy medicines and still feel like you are in a very bad shape because of your allergy, immunotherapy may be an option. Hayfever desensitisation is also called immunotherapy and implies that during a longer period of time you will receive injections containing small amounts of the allergy provoking substance. In this way, your body is being "trained" to increase its tolerance to that specific substance, so that after the treatment your immune system will not react to the substance and the symptoms will disappear. The first dosage is very small and will then gradually be increased every week for seven to eight weeks. When the highest level has been reached (the maintenance dose) the injections will be given every month for at least three years.
In order for immunotherapy to be an option it is required that you are very allergic and that you are not getting rid of the problems despite regular and prolonged treatment with prescription medicines. Immunotherapy is rarely suitable for people allergic to more than one substance. Small children and people over 45 years old are usually only given immunotherapy in exceptional cases. Pregnant women should not initiate immunotherapy to treat their allergies.
Allergy vaccine treatment can be an effective treatment of hay fever, especially allergies to birch and grass pollens. The best season to start immunotherapy treating hay fever is autumn, when the pollen season has ended. That way it is easier to avoid side effects from the treatment. Since a few years back, people allergic to grass pollen can receive immunotherapy using orally disintegrating tablets, which are placed under the tongue. The first tablets are usually taken at a hospital and if everything goes well you may continue the treatment on your own. This vaccine treatment is usually initiated a few months before the pollen season starts and the pills must then be taken every day for three years.
In order for immunotherapy to be suitable for you, you must suffer from severe problems, for example, if you are having allergic reactions simply by being in the same room as a pet owner. In other words, you will not be given immunotherapy in order to be able to get a cat or dog. People allergic to cats and horses could be helped by a vaccine treatment - if you are allergic to dogs, however, the chances of successful immunotherapy is considerably lower.
If you are allergic to dust mites or bees or wasps stings you may get better after immunotherapy treatment. When it comes to bee and wasp stings there is no upper age limit for the vaccine therapy treatment.
To avoid side effects it is important that you are healthy and are not suffering from any allergic symptoms on or just before the day of the immunotherapy vaccine treatment. Most likely you will feel fine afterwards, but you get itchy skin where the injection was given and feel a bit more tired than usual. In rare cases an allergic reaction might occur, and because of that the first few injections will be given at a hospital. People allergic to grass pollen who are treated with vaccine tablets may initially experience an itchy and swollen mouth, however, that is something that usually passes when the treatment has been going on for one or a few weeks.
UK/GEN/15/0057e Date of preparation: December 2015
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