Our allergists at CT Sinus Center offer the following Allergy Services to reduce or eliminate your allergy symptoms. Immediate help is available. Contact us today at (203) 574-5997 to see how we may help you.
- Allergy Testing – Pollen, Pet Dander, Mold, Dust, Food, and Latex
- Allergy Shots (Immunotherapy)
- Allergy Drops (Sublingual Immunotherapy [SLIT])
There are several different ways to test for allergies. Common triggers include pollen, pet dander, mold, dust mites, food, and latex.
Skin Testing – This is the most common type of allergy test (“prick” testing) where a small drop of the allergen is introduced into the skin using a puncture or scratch device. If you are allergic, you will experience a little swelling at the site. Results of this test are available within 15-20 minutes.
Intradermal Testing – This testing uses a very small needle (syringe) to place a small amount of the allergen under your skin. Intradermal tests are often done when prick test results are inconclusive or a second test is needed to confirm results. Prior to having a prick test or intradermal test, patients should not take any antihistamines for 3-5 days, as they can block the accuracy of the testing and can result in false-negative results.
Blood Testing – Blood testing is another option for patients, especially for those who cannot stop taking their antihistamine or who have a skin condition that causes skin tests to be unable to be read. Allergy blood tests detect and measure the amount of allergen-specific antibodies in your blood, and if you test positive your doctor may recommend allergy shots.
Allergy shots are given as a long-term, cost-effective treatment for decreasing sensitivity to allergens, providing lasting relief of allergy symptoms even after treatment is stopped. These shots are most effective in treating patients who suffer from symptoms associated with allergic rhinitis, allergic asthma, conjunctivitis (eye allergy) or stinging insect allergy. Allergy shots are not used to treat food allergies.
This form of treatment is usually recommended for both children (age 6 and older) and adults. For older adults or patients with multiple medical conditions, the risks of allergy shots may outweigh the benefits.
The decision to initiate allergy shots is a personal one and will be made in conjunction with your allergist. The choice for shots is usually based on the following
- Severity of symptoms
- Number of allergies
- Medication effectiveness or avoidance measures to control symptoms
- Desire to avoid long-term medications
- Time available to commit to allergy shot treatment
Allergy shots work like a vaccine. When the allergen is injected, the body responds and develops an immunity or tolerance to the allergen. The first phase of the treatment is the build-up phase, where patients receive injections with increasing amounts 1-2 times per week. The length of this phase generally ranges from 3-6 months, depending on how often injections are received and any delays between injections. The second phase of treatment is the maintenance phase, where the injections are spaced out 2-4 weeks between injections for a total of 3-5 years and then they are stopped. Patients usually start to see a decrease in symptoms during the build-up phase. The effectiveness of the treatment appears to be related to the length of treatment as well as to the dose. Treatment doses and lengths are individualized based on the patient’s symptoms and needs.
Allergy shots are not without risk. Injections are given subcutaneously, generally in the back of the upper arm, and patients may experience redness, swelling, and itching at the site of the injection. In some cases, allergy symptoms may increase with sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose or itchy eyes. For some patients, hives can occur, and more rarely symptoms of anaphylaxis occur with swelling of the throat, wheezing or shortness of breath, nausea, and dizziness. Most serious reactions develop within 30 minutes of the injection. Delay in the treatment of anaphylaxis can worsen the outcome. Although death is extremely uncommon (1 in 2 million injections), it is a potential outcome particularly when life-saving treatment is delayed. All allergy shots are given in the clinic under the direct supervision of properly trained staff, with ready access to life-saving equipment.
Allergy drops are a good option particularly when medications are not relieving symptoms. They are also ideal for patients who have needle phobias and/or have time restraints, where they cannot make weekly appointments for allergy shots.
Currently, the only FDA-approved form of SLIT are tablets for ragweed, northern grasses, and dust mites. Since the safety and efficacy of allergy drops are still being determined and since they are considered an off-label treatment in the United States, insurance companies are not paying for this form of treatment. Regardless, the efficacy of allergy drops has been established in numerous studies both in Europe and the US.
Very rarely have severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) been reported using SLIT. The risks for such reactions are actually lower than with shots. The first drops from each new vial are administered in the clinic for safety, but patients can take daily tablets or drops under the tongue at home after that.
Note: Allergy drops are not recommended for food allergies at this time. Avoidance is still the best treatment recommendation for food allergies.
Remember, you don’t need to suffer from your allergy symptoms. Take control of your allergies today. Call us at (203) 574-5997 to see how our allergists may help you.