It's Not You, It's Me: Allergy Shots Part 3
How do allergy shots work?
Allergy shots are designed to produce a reaction to the trigger they are trying to desensitize. This may mean your arm turns red, swells, or is warm to the touch. While this isn't fun it isn't life threatening and probably won't lead you and your care team to decide to quit allergy shots in favor of other courses of treatment. I assume you've discussed with your allergist at length the risks and benefits of allergy shots. If you have not, perhaps you've found the topic of discussion at your next appointment. Being on the same page as your care team is very important. After all, without a patient, there are no allergy shots to give.
Allergy shots and asthma
Even with every precaution possible anaphylaxis is the inherent risk of allergy shots.1 The main ways to help mitigate this risk is for your allergy care team to accurately assess your current health state, especially asthma control, and give you an accurate dose.1 Asthma itself doesn't increase the risk of a reaction, but unstable asthma increases the risk of a severe reaction or death.1 While you can't keep the nurse from drawing up the wrong dose, there are things you can do to help them reduce your risk of anaphylaxis. I was asked to confirm the name on the vials was mine before the nurse would draw up the shots. It's easy to just say yes without really looking, especially if the caffeine hasn't had a chance to sink in for the day yet. Your care team is only human, and may have pulled the wrong vial, if they ask you to double check, do!
Be completely transparent with your care team about how you're are feeling. I know I was always asked if I was feeling well when I came in for a shot. Answer honestly, if it will be a big wrinkle in your life to go to the clinic only to not get a shot, give them a call and ask if your symptoms would prevent a shot. Yes, it is inconvenient if you get off your schedule of shots but having a severe reaction to a shot because you aren't well is no walk in the park. The student health center also had rules about how many days I had to wait between allergy shots and seasonal flu shots. My allergist's office would give me a flu shot the same day as allergy shots. I'm not sure why there was a different policy between the two. It doesn't hurt to speak up if you have had a flu shot or any other changes in medication or vaccines your allergist's office might not know. It will probably be a quick conversation.
Be prepared for an emergency when getting the allergy shots
I was lucky enough to never need to use the EpiPens I have for an allergic reaction due to allergy shots (or anything else for that matter). My allergy shots experience was thankfully fairly uneventful. Nothing more than some Benadryl, hydrocortisone, or an ice pack was needed throughout my course of allergy shots. If you aren't so lucky, the best way to ensure a good outcome is to recognize the symptoms of the allergic reaction and seek prompt treatment.1
Have you experienced a collapsed lung?