Individuals suffering from allergies have two potential options for alleviating their allergy symptoms. These standard treatments include allergy shots and allergy pills. However, the distinctions between the two may not always be apparent.
Allergy Shots (Immunotherapy):
Allergy shots, also known as allergen immunotherapy or desensitization, are a form of treatment designed to reduce the body’s allergic response to specific allergens. These allergens could be substances like pollen, mold spores, pet dander, dust mites, or insect venom that trigger allergic reactions in susceptible individuals.
How Allergy Shots Work:
- Allergy shots work by gradually exposing the immune system to small and increasing amounts of the specific allergen(s) the patient is allergic to.
- The treatment starts with a “build-up phase,” during which the patient receives injections containing tiny amounts of the allergen(s). These injections are typically given once or twice a week, increasing the dosage over time.
- As the treatment progresses, the immune system becomes desensitized to the allergens, making it less reactive and producing fewer allergic responses.
- After reaching the target dose (usually after several months), the patient enters the “maintenance phase.” During this phase, the injections are given regularly (e.g., once a month) to maintain the desensitization effect.
Benefits of Allergy Shots:
- Long-lasting relief: Allergy shots can provide long-term relief from allergic symptoms, even after the treatment.
- Addressing the root cause: Immunotherapy targets the underlying cause of allergies by retraining the immune system, not just treating the symptoms.
- Reducing reliance on medications: Successful immunotherapy can reduce the need for daily allergy medications and their potential side effects.
- Preventing asthma: In some cases, allergy shots can help prevent the development of asthma in individuals with allergic rhinitis (hay fever).
Allergy pills, also known as antihistamines or allergy medications, are oral drugs that are taken to relieve allergy symptoms caused by specific allergens. They are a quick and convenient way to manage allergy symptoms and are commonly available over the counter or by prescription.
How Allergy Pills Work:
- Allergy pills block the effects of histamine, a chemical released by the immune system during an allergic reaction. Histamine is responsible for causing symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, itching, and watery eyes.
- Antihistamines in the form of pills can rapidly alleviate these symptoms by reducing the effects of histamine on the body.
Benefits of Allergy Pills:
- Rapid relief: Allergy pills quickly relieve allergy symptoms, making them suitable for managing acute or seasonal allergies.
- Convenience: Allergy pills can be taken at home or on the go without medical supervision or frequent visits to a healthcare provider.
- Temporary relief: Allergy pills relieve symptoms but do not address the underlying cause of allergies. As a result, their effect is temporary, and symptoms may return once the medication wears off.
In summary, allergy shots (immunotherapy) and pills have their merits. Allergy shots are a more long-term and comprehensive approach that can modify the immune response and provide lasting relief. In contrast, allergy pills offer immediate symptom relief but do not address the root cause of allergies. The choice between the two depends on the type and severity of allergies, patient preference, and guidance from an allergy specialist.
Are Allergy Shots Better Than Pills?
The choice between allergy shots (immunotherapy) and allergy pills (medications) depends on various factors, including the type and severity of allergies, the patient’s medical history, lifestyle preferences, and the advice of an allergy specialist. Here are some points to consider when deciding which treatment may be more suitable for an individual:
Type of Allergies
Allergy shots are typically recommended for individuals with moderate to severe allergic rhinitis (hay fever) caused by environmental allergens, such as pollen, dust mites, pet dander, or mold. They are also used for insect venom allergies. On the other hand, allergy pills are commonly used to manage mild to moderate allergy symptoms caused by common allergens.
Severity of Allergies
Immunotherapy may be a more appropriate option if allergies significantly impact the patient’s daily life, causing frequent and severe symptoms. Allergy shots aim to provide long-term relief and address the underlying cause of allergies by desensitizing the immune system.
Allergy shots are generally more effective than allergy pills in providing long-term symptom relief and reducing the need for daily allergy medications. However, allergy pills can offer quicker relief and suit those seeking immediate symptomatic relief.
Allergy shots involve a more extended treatment period (usually three to five years). In contrast, allergy pills offer immediate relief but may need to be taken regularly during allergy seasons or as required.
Immunotherapy requires regular visits to an allergist’s office for injections, especially during the build-up phase. This treatment demands commitment and patience. On the other hand, allergy pills are taken orally and do not require as much commitment.
Safety and Side Effects
Both allergy shots and pills are generally safe but can have side effects. Allergy shots may cause mild reactions at the injection site, while allergy pills can sometimes lead to drowsiness or other side effects.
Age and Health Status
Immunotherapy may be more suitable for older children and adults. Allergy pills can be used in children and adults, but some pills may have age restrictions or specific dosage adjustments.
The cost of allergy shots and pills can vary, so patients should consider their budget and insurance coverage.
Which Treatment Is Right For Me?
To determine which treatment is suitable, it’s essential to consult with an allergy specialist. The allergist will consider the patient’s medical history, perform allergy tests to identify the specific allergens and discuss the patient’s symptoms and lifestyle. Based on this evaluation, the allergist will recommend the most appropriate treatment option, whether immunotherapy, allergy pills, or a combination of both.
Our team of Allergists in First Care Medical Clinic will assess your unique case to determine the most suitable approach for you. With our physicians’ expertise and board certification in Allergy and Immunology, you can trust their extensive training, clinical experience, and deep knowledge to guide the most effective interventions for your immediate relief and long-term care.