a person looking skeptically at a shot

My Experience with Allergy Testing and Shots

I had my first allergy testing in 1980. I was 10-years-old. Afterward, I remember mom showing me the list of things I was allergic to. She said, "You're pretty much allergic to everything outdoors." And then, over the course of the next five years, I went through a series of allergy shots.

I was retested for allergies in 1985 and again in 1995. Both those tests showed the same results as my previous testing had: I am allergic to basically everything outside. After my 1995 allergy tests, my doctor at the time wanted me to get allergy shots again. I agreed to do it, but I never showed up to get the shots.

My decision: no more allergy shots

Yes, I was a bad patient. In my defense, that doctor was a prick - no pun intended. Also in my defense, I was, at that time, embarking on a mission to pass respiratory therapy school. Lord knows this was a hard program to pass. It was very time-consuming. So, I think I had a pretty good excuse.

I also was not convinced I needed allergy shots again. I went through all of that in the early half of the 1980s. For that, I had to go to the doctor's office every Tuesday and get an allergy shot. You had to wait in the office for a nurse to become available. Then you had to sit there for a half-hour in case you had an anaphylactic reaction, which I thankfully never did. So, it is quite a time commitment and it failed.

I had made the decision to get allergy shots for five years, and I am still allergic to everything. My 1995 allergy test pretty much proved that. So, to me, that pretty much confirmed that allergy shots do not work for me.

The process of allergy testing

Basically, I decided I never wanted to go through allergy testing ever again. If you have ever done it, the old way was to lie flat on your belly with your shirt off. A nurse would prick you back with every allergen you are to be tested for. Each was an individual prick and there were over 100 to test.

The process took a long, long time. For any allergen you test positive for, a red welt develops, and it itches like crazy. So, when you are allergic to everything as I am, your back itches horribly. They do rub Benadryl over it when you're done, but it continues to itch for some time.

Revisiting allergy testing and shots

So, I decided not to go through getting allergy shots again. "What is the point?" - again, no pun intended, the past me quipped. And yet, 35 years later, I saw an ENT. He observed, along with my asthma, that I have severe inflammation in my nose. He suggested that allergy shots might benefit me.

"I went through that before," I said. "And they didn't work."

"Yes", he said, "But medicine has advanced quite a bit over the past 35 years. I have found that over 85 percent of my patients benefit from allergy shots."

"Well," I said, "I do have pretty good asthma control. And I often quip that I can do most of the things I enjoy, and that is my definition of good asthma control. One thing I enjoy is sorting through classic baseball cards. However, I have difficulty sorting through old cards due to the dust mites. And another thing I enjoy that I have a hard time with is spending time at my dad's cabin. So, my point is, if I get allergy shots, as you say, would I be able to do those things in five years?"

"Yes. I do think you will be able to do them," he said with an air of confidence.

I said, "Ok, then. I'm in."

Where I am now

I am still not fully committed. While I generally am an optimistic person, I do not share his optimism, at least as far as allergy shots are concerned. I mean, the last new medicine I tried was Advair, and that was way back in 2003. That was the last new medicinal option that has benefited me.

So, the air of confidence in me about gaining better asthma control is waning. And, perhaps, that is why I didn't want to get my hopes up about allergy shots benefiting me. That, and the fact I went through them once before with no effect.

Lack of enthusiasm

My enthusiasm is lacking. I think good evidence of this is that this doctor said a lady would call me in 2 to 3 weeks or as soon as the allergy shots arrived at the office. He also said if no one calls me, I can call them and set up an appointment. It has now been over 2 months, and I have not heard from this person yet. Nor have I made an effort to call them.

I can hear all the moms out there saying, "JOHN! You better call them and get your shots. Don't do a repeat of 1995. Who knows, those shots might be a life-changer for you." And I can hear my mom saying the same thing as she reads this (right, mom?).

Of course, mom is also that voice filling the niche in the back of my mind. I am very familiar with that voice. I hear it every time I think about doing something she would consider stupid. I hear it every time I procrastinate about something important, such as getting allergy shots.

Changes in the testing process

So, I have a lot to say about allergy testing and allergy shots. The most interesting change over the past 35 years is how the testing is done. Man, it is so much easier now. You no longer have to lie down for the testing. It was far quicker and probably much easier for an adult, let alone a kid. I will delve deeper into this topic in posts to come. So stay tuned!

I have been through quite a bit over the years as far as my allergic asthma is concerned. And thanks to modern medicine, things have gotten quite a bit better. Yet still not perfect. As noted, I am able to do most of the things I enjoy means there is room for improvement. So, given the lack of options out there, I'm willing to give allergy shots a try, despite my lack of enthusiasm.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy. We never sell or share your email address.

More on this topic

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

or create an account to comment.