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What is Subcutaneous Immunotherapy (SCIT)?
Subcutaneous Immunotherapy (SCIT), often referred to as allergy shots, is a medical treatment for allergic conditions such as allergic rhinitis or hay fever, allergic asthma, and insect sting allergies.
SCIT involves injecting gradually increasing amounts of allergens under the skin to help the immune system become less sensitive to those allergens over time. As such, SCIT is not a cure for allergic rhinitis or asthma, but rather a treatment that works like a vaccine .
Benefits of Subcutaneous Immunotherapy
Long-Term Relief. SCIT aims to provide long-lasting relief by targeting the root cause of allergies, rather than just managing symptoms.
Reduced Dependence on Medications. Successful SCIT can lead to a decreased reliance on allergy medications, such as antihistamines and nasal sprays.
Prevention of Progression. Allergies can progress to more severe conditions, such as asthma. SCIT may help prevent this progression.
Personalized Treatment. The treatment is tailored to the individual's specific allergens, providing targeted relief.
Effective for Multiple Allergens. SCIT can address allergies to multiple allergens in one treatment plan.
How is the treatment done?
Two phases make up the Subcutaneous Immunotherapy (SCIT) or allergy shot therapy: a build-up phase and a maintenance phase.
Build-up phase. An injection may be given once a week (sometimes more often) for about seven months, after which injections can be administered every two weeks. In this phase you will start with a low dose injection and build to a higher dose of allergens over time. For typical immunotherapy this phase lasts from 6 to 10 months, depending on how often you get your shots and how well you tolerate them. The build-up phase for venom therapy generally lasts for 10 weeks.
Maintenance phase. When you reach your “effective therapeutic dose” you will begin the maintenance phase. During this phase you receive your allergy shots less often, usually every 3 to 4 weeks. The maintenance phase typically lasts 3-5 years (or longer if advised by your allergist).
Is Subcutaneous Immunotherapy (SCIT) safe?
While SCIT is proven to be safe and effective, reactions to allergy shots are common. Most reactions are local, which means that they show up close or around the area where the shot was administered. They can vary from a dime-sized itchy spot to a large lemon-sized swelling.
In these cases, taking an antihistamine and applying ice to on the affected area may reduce your reaction. If a local reaction lasts longer than 24 hours or happens often, contact your SCIT provider for more assistance.
Rarely, reactions can affect your entire body. This is referred to as a systemic reaction, and it can be dangerous. For this reason you must stay in our office for 30 minutes following every shot appointment. Additionally, you should not exercise for 2 hours after your shots.
Systemic reactions may include:
stuffy or runny nose
itchy or red eyes and ears
itching or tightness of the throat
and rarely, life-threatening reactions (including difficulty breathing and/or a dangerous drop in blood pressure ).
Most systemic reactions are mild and improve with treatment, but these reactions may become life threatening. This is why having a treatment planned and administered by a qualified medical professional is essential for a better outcome.