Allergy Shots (Immunotherapy)

Many people take medicines and avoid their triggers to control their allergies. Allergy shots are another type of treatment that can provide long-term relief of allergy symptoms. Allergy shots are a type of treatment for allergies. The goal of the treatment is to make your body less sensitive to allergens. Allergens are the substances that cause your allergies. You will have allergy testing to figure out what your allergens are before having allergy shots.

Health care provider giving shot in girl's upper arm. Woman standing in background.

What are allergy shots?

Each allergy shot contains a small dose of the substances that cause your allergies. The dose is slowly increased as your treatment continues. You’ll get shots once or twice a week at first. After about 3 to 6 months you will reach your maintenance level. Then you will get shots every 2 to 4 weeks. Your allergy shots may continue for a few years or even longer. It is important to stay on schedule to give the shots the best chance to work.

Deciding to have allergy shots

When deciding whether or not to have allergy shots, you and your healthcare provider should think about the following:

  • How long your symptoms last each allergy season or whether or not you have symptoms all of the time

  • How severe your allergy symptoms are

  • Whether or not taking medicines and avoiding triggers helps you

  • Whether or not you want to keep taking allergy medicine

  • Time and cost of allergy shots

Getting your shots

Allergy shots are given by injection in the upper arm. You may receive 1 shot or you may receive more than 1. This depends on the how many things are causing your allergies. You may feel a slight sting when you get each shot.

After your shots

You’ll need to wait for 30 minutes before you can leave. This is to make sure you're not having a serious reaction to the shot. You may have itchiness and soreness in your arm, or sneezing and nasal congestion. If you have a serious reaction, you'll receive treatment while you’re in your provider's office.

What is a serious reaction?

In rare cases, allergy shots can cause a reaction called anaphylaxis. This is a life-threatening problem that must be treated right away. Call 911 if you have any of the following:

  • Swelling in your throat

  • Wheezing or chest tightness

  • Trouble breathing

  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded