Immunotherapy is a type of treatment for allergic patients with rhinitis (hay fever), conjunctivitis or asthma, or for patients with stinging insect allergy. It is also called desensitization, hyposensitization and allergy shots. A mixture of the various pollens, mold spores, animal danders and dust mites to which the patient is allergic is formulated. This mixture is called an allergy extract (vaccine). By administering increasing doses of the allergy extract, the person's natural immune system is enhanced and learns to fight off the allergens. This extract contains no medication such as antihistamines or corticosteroids.
Immunotherapy is given by injection under the skin usually into the fatty tissue in the back of the arm. It is not painful like an injection into the muscle such as a penicillin shot.
Injections may be given weekly or twice a week until a maximum dose is tolerated. This is called the maintenance dose. It may take about one year to reach the maintenance dose. At this point, the frequency of injections may be decreased to every other week and finally to once a month. Your physician will establish the appropriate schedule of injections to meet your medical needs.