Becoming a Pin Cushion: Allergy Shots Part 1
If you have asthma and longstanding allergies, you've probably at least heard of allergy shots or immunotherapy. There are also newer options coming to the market, like sublingual drops that require no needles. My journey towards allergy shots started like most people -with my forearms outstretched, getting a scratch or prick test.
This probably isn't anyone's idea of a good time but it does give you and your care team data on what exactly is giving you allergy troubles. I made lots of wheels to a variety of different types of mold as well as some dust mites. Mercifully, these went down quickly after a little hydrocortisone cream was applied.
Allergy shots and asthma testing
I was a lucky one who also got to have an intradermal test to confirm some of the results which was similar to getting a tuberculosis bubble screening, other than the waiting two days for results part. I'll take intradermal over scratch testing any day of the week. It definitely feels weird but you don't have to sit still while you wait for the hives to develop.
My doctor and I discussed how we wanted to proceed with the confirmation that these tests gave me. We could try some different medication combinations in an effort to get allergies and asthma in better control. I could also make the five or more year commitment to a course of allergy shots. This was definitely framed as the long game; it would probably be six months to a year before we would know if it was working.
I'd fit shots into my calendar weekly, then every other week, every 3 weeks, then once a month. It could cure my allergies or send me into anaphylactic shock or somewhere in between. I took a few months to think it over and try some additional medication changes. After drowsy zombie reactions to the medication swaps we tried, I decided that I would go forward with allergy shots.
Allergy shots at the right time in your life
At the time, I was still in college, and it seemed like I should start the process before my schedule and responsibilities got more complicated. With asthma and dust mite allergies, there was data to suggest as a young adult I would be more likely to benefit from allergy shots.1 It was slightly terrifying to pick a treatment that included a possibility of death. On the other hand, I had made my peace with inhaling a medication twice a day that carried a black box warning. Everything in life has a risk, and I decided for me that the risks outweighed the benefits.
With the decision to go forward with immunotherapy, I was signing myself up for a lot of jabs in the side of the arms. The FDA has not approved a sublingual drop or tablet to treat allergies I have. Sublingual treatment has been shown to be effective at treating allergies and is accomplished by holding drops or tablets under your tongue for a few minutes before swallowing.2 Hopefully, the scientists will get enough data on this method to offer it up to us someday soon. I'm sure many people would enjoy the benefits of allergy shots without the need to get shots.
How does your asthma change with the seasons?