Perhaps you’re battling allergies with an arsenal of over-the-counter medications. You pop your antihistamine every morning and you’re good—or maybe not. For some people, allergy drugs aren’t enough to keep the symptoms at bay, and the drugs can present unwanted side effects, too.
Fortunately, there are other options out there for allergy treatment, but many people are on the fence trying to decide whether to stay the course with pills and nasal sprays or seek a more lasting solution.
Long-term relief is available in the form of immunotherapy. Medications can minimize symptoms, but they don’t continue to work after you stop taking them. In other words, if you stop the pills, the symptoms come right back. Allergy immunotherapy, on the other hand, desensitizes your body to triggers in the environment so that over time, it can be as though you never had allergies in the first place.
But your choices don’t end there. If you decide that allergy immunotherapy is for you, you can get it in the form of allergy shots or allergy drops that absorb under the tongue.
So many choices! But don’t be overwhelmed. The purpose of this blog is to help make those choices easier. If you are re-examining your approach to allergies, here are some questions and answers to guide your decisions.
Deciding Between Medications and Allergy Immunotherapy
Are you concerned about the side effects of allergy medications?
If so, you may want to consider immunotherapy, which is a natural allergy treatment with minimal side effects.
How effective are your current allergy medications?
If your meds are doing a good job of keeping your symptoms in check and you aren’t bothered by their side effects, medications may be the best fit for you.
How long do your allergies last?
If your allergy symptoms only make you feel bad for a few weeks of the year, you can probably get by with over-the-counter or prescription medications. If you experience symptoms for more than a few months of the year, you may be a candidate for allergy immunotherapy.
How severe are your allergies?
Even if your allergies don’t last for months on end, if they are so severe that they completely derail your quality of life when they hit, talk to your doctor about immunotherapy.
Are you concerned about your nasal allergies turning into asthma? Or if you have asthma already, are you worried about it getting worse?
Most cases of asthma have their root in allergy, so as your allergies worsen, you may begin to see signs of wheezing and asthma. If you already have asthma, a bad allergy season can escalate your symptoms. If you see your allergies tending toward wheezing and asthma, or worry about your asthma getting out of hand, talk to your doctor about addressing the underlying allergy through immunotherapy. Asthma medications can treat the symptoms, but they can be very expensive and aren’t always fully effective.
Are you concerned about ongoing ear and sinus infections?
An occasional ear or sinus infection is normal, but if you notice these infections recurring frequently, allergy may be the culprit. Allergies cause inflammation, and inflammation of the tissues in the ears and sinuses can obstruct the normal flow of mucus and lead to the development of bacteria that cause infections. In extreme cases, frequent ear infections can damage the eardrum and the structure of the middle ear, leading to impaired hearing. If you keep getting these infections, discuss immunotherapy with your physician.
Deciding on the Right Approach to Immunotherapy
If you opt to pursue immunotherapy, here are a few more important questions to ask yourself to decide between subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shots) and sublingual immunotherapy (under-the-tongue allergy drops):
How much time do you have to commit to immunotherapy?
Shots are much more time-consuming than allergy drops because they have to be administered under direct physician supervision. Before you commit to shots, make sure that you have time to go to the doctor’s office a couple of times per week for injections over the course of many months. If this is going to clash with your work schedule or take too much time away from your family, consider sublingual allergy drops.
Are you afraid of needles?
For some people, a couple of shots in the arm each week for allergies may not be a big deal. If you’re scared of needles, though, sublingual immunotherapy can be a less traumatic option.
Does your child need allergy immunotherapy?
If you’re researching the options for a child who suffers from allergies, you need to take a couple of things into account. First, they may not be old enough for allergy shots; most doctors won’t prescribe them to kids age 7 or younger. That’s little consolation, however, for a toddler who deals with allergy-induced asthma or constant nasal congestion. Fortunately, sublingual immunotherapy has been shown to be safe for children under age 5. Allergy drops for kids are also less invasive than shots, so there aren’t as many issues with fear and resistance.
Though it’s always best to discuss important health decisions with your physician, the questions listed above can help you be more informed about the different options available to you.
Allergies don’t affect the quantity of life, but they can certainly eat away at your quality of life. If you find yourself feeling rotten with each new allergy season, re-evaluate your approach to your allergies and explore new treatments for ending the cycle of allergic misery.