Allergy shots, also called subcutaneous immunotherapy, introduce small amounts of medical-grade allergens to the body by way of injection, build the immune system’s tolerance to allergens — and hopefully, reduce allergy symptoms and provide long-term relief.
Shots are administered once a week during the build-up phase and once a month during the maintenance phase.
Allergy shots have been more commonly administered in the U.S. than other types of allergy immunotherapy (though sublingual immunotherapy has been popular in France and other parts of Europe for decades).
Generally, patients will need to visit their doctor for maintenance shots for up to three-to-five years.
Allergy shots aren’t the only way to prevent allergy symptoms. Both allergy medications and sublingual immunotherapy have proven effective at reducing allergy symptoms.
If neither allergy immunotherapy nor allergy medications are a good fit, it is important that you identify the allergens that are an issue for you and take steps to limit your exposure.
Sublingual immunotherapy is another form of allergy immunotherapy available in the United States.
This type of immunotherapy is administered underneath the tongue. After the first dose which is typically done under direct observation by a clinician, thereafter, doses may be self-administered at home, without the supervision of a medical professional. This is because the side effect of severe allergic reaction, or anaphylaxis is far rarer with sublingual immunotherapy than with allergy shots.
Sublingual immunotherapy tablets are available as monotherapy, meaning they treat allergy to one specific allergen. In this US sublingual immunotherapy tablets are available for grass allergens ragweed and dust mite.
Curex’s allergy immunotherapy can be customized with multiple allergens specific to each patient.
Studies have shown sublingual immunotherapy to be safe and effective at reducing allergy symptoms. Curex users may see results in as little as six months.
Doses are administered daily, and the cost of at-home sublingual immunotherapy may be less expensive than the cost of allergy shots without health insurance.
Another alternative to allergy shots is allergy medication. Antihistamines, nasal sprays, eye drops, inhalers and other medications are the most common therapies used to treat allergies. Still, they don’t treat the root cause of allergy symptoms, rather they chronically alleviate symptoms.
Antihistamines, intranasal corticosteroid spray, and antihistmaine eye drops are the most common allergy medication used to treat allergy symptoms. They are available with or without a prescription.
Antihistamines block the histamine release that leads to uncomfortable allergy symptoms, such as itching, sneezing, inflammation, runny nose, watery eyes, coughing, and more.
This type of allergy medication is available orally and is also an ingredient in nasal sprays and eye drops.
Antihistamines have been shown to be effective at reducing symptoms of allergic rhinitis, oral allergy syndrome and food allergies. They can be taken daily to prevent allergy symptoms or as needed for symptoms as they arise.
Possible side effects of antihistamines include:
Nasal steroid spray is another type of allergy medication effective at treating allergy symptoms.
These medications are used to treat nasal symptoms specifically such as nasal congestion, sneezing and chronic nasal discharge or post nasal drip.
Possible side effects of nasal steroids include:
Allergen avoidance is one way to prevent allergy symptoms. If you don’t come in contact with allergens, you won’t experience symptoms, right?
Studies have shown, “In very controlled environments where allergen exposure is significantly reduced, individuals have been shown to have clinical improvement in allergic rhinitis and/or asthma symptoms.”
While avoiding allergens can help reduce allergy symptoms, it’s not always easy to control allergen levels in your home or work environment.
Allergen avoidance can help prevent symptoms, yet it’s considered more of a short-term solution.
Dust and dust mite allergies can be avoided by keeping your home free of dust. Clean surfaces with a wet cloth (dry cloths can transfer dust to the air or onto other surfaces). If you have visible dust in your home, you probably also have dust mites, so keeping surfaces clean is key.
Pets can be tricky since it’s practically impossible to prevent exposure to your furry friends (especially if they’re cuddlers). But you may be able to minimize the impact pet dander and urine can have on your allergies by bathing pets regularly and keeping pets off soft furniture and out of your bedroom.
Investing in HEPA-certified air filters can also help reduce indoor allergens. These filters are available for fans, air conditioners, HVAC systems, and vacuums.
Once you know what you’re allergic to, you can try to avoid outdoor allergens during allergy seasons.
If you’re allergic to pollen, try to avoid going outside on days that pollen counts are high.
Allergy shots aren’t inexpensive — though health insurance may cover a large portion of costs.
A 2018 study looked at the cost of subcutaneous immunotherapy in a large insured population in the United States.
The study found, “Among all SCIT patients, the 3 year total plan-paid SCIT-related costs were $205,741,125,” and, “patient-paid costs were $47,560,450.”
The cost averaged approximately $1,926 per person, and patients paid 19% out of pocket; insurance providers paid 81%.
The patients in this study all had commercial insurance or Medicare Advantage, Part D.
Depending on your health insurance plan, you may not need to pay anything out of pocket, or you may need to pay a copay at each shot visit or a deductible.
Sublingual immunotherapy is a great alternative to allergy shots and can be much cheaper than shots when you factor in missed time at work and commuting costs.
Curex’s allergy immunotherapy plans start at $49 a month + copay with insurance and $99 for self-pay patients, while allergy shots can cost anywhere from $2,000-$5,000.
Before starting allergy immunotherapy treatments, you’ll need to know which allergens are triggering your symptoms. Sublingual and subcutaneous allergy immunotherapy both target specific allergies.
Two types of tests are available, including skin and blood tests. Skin tests start at $60 and go up to $300 (plus the cost of the consultation). Blood tests can cost up to $1,000 without health insurance. Both may be covered by health insurance.
Curex’s at-home concierge allergy test costs start at $99. A clinician will travel to your home or office and perform a blood draw. Results are available in three to five days.
Are you more of a DIYer? For only $99, get an at-home allergy test kit. Follow the instructions to collect a blood sample, and mail your sample to the lab. Results are available in two weeks.
Allergy immunotherapy can cause side effects in some patients. Though the side effects of sublingual immunotherapy and allergy shots are similar, there are some major differences between the two.
The most common side effects of allergy shots may include:
Patients with a history of anaphylaxis, severe or poorly controlled asthma, certain cardiac and other medical conditions may not be eligible for allergy shots.
Side effects of sublingual immunotherapy may include:
Anaphylaxis is extremely rare with sublingual immunotherapy.
One major downside to allergy shots is the possibility of rare severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis.
Side effects, such as itching and rash at the site injection, may also cause discomfort.
Also, visiting a doctor’s office once a week may simply not fit into your or your child’s schedule. And fear of needles is often an issue for children when considering allergy shots.
Since side effects are rarer with sublingual immunotherapy and doses may be administered at home, you may want to find out if your child is a good candidate for Curex’s at-home immunotherapy.
Yes! Allergy shots have been shown to be effective in treating the root cause of allergies.
When it comes to whether or not they’re worth it… it depends. While allergy shots are certainly one effective way to treat the root cause of allergies, they’re not the best option for everyone.
Before recommending allergy shots, a medical professional may take several factors into consideration, including pre-existing conditions, such as a history of anaphylaxis or poorly controlled asthma.
You may also need to take into consideration the cost of allergy shots, convenience (or lack thereof) and possible side effects.
If you’re curious about allergy immunotherapy and want to learn about alternatives to allergy shots, take our free quiz or talk to an allergy care manager to find out if allergy immunotherapy is right for you.