Allergy Immunotherapy: Exploring the Science Behind a Promising Solution

While allergy immunotherapy is nothing new, it has garnished attention in recent years as a promising solution for those suffering from allergies. This innovative treatment targets the allergy, not the symptoms, allowing you to take steps toward long-term relief and improved quality of life without the doom and gloom of allergic reactions.

The science and research behind allergy immunotherapy are fascinating. In this blog, we’ll explore the basics of this treatment to help you learn more about its power and determine if it’s the right fit for your needs. 

The Basics of Allergies

Before we explore the wonders of allergy immunotherapy, we need to understand the basics of an allergy. Simply put, an allergy is your immune system’s reaction to a foreign substance. 

When you have an allergy, your body makes antibodies, blood proteins that counteract a specific allergen, that flag the substance as harmful, even though it isn’t. So, when your body comes into contact with that particular substance, those antibodies communicate with cells that release specific chemicals, triggering the reaction. 

The resulting symptoms can range in severity from those as mild as a runny nose or itchy eyes to those as severe as difficulty breathing or anaphylaxis. 

Understanding Allergy Immunotherapy

Allergy immunotherapy is a treatment designed to reduce the body’s sensitivity to a foreign substance called an allergen. These allergens can take many forms and aren’t inherently harmful, often including bee venom, pollen, specific foods, pet dander, and northern pasture grasses. 

Types of AIT

There are two types of immunotherapy: sublingual and subcutaneous. The former, sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT), is administered under the tongue using allergy drops or tablets. This option is often used for kids, as it doesn’t involve frequent injections or doctor visits. 

The latter, subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT), is administered under the skin via injection. This option is the most common type of allergy immunotherapy and must be administered under the watchful eye of a healthcare provider. 

How Allergy Immunotherapy Works

Allergy immunotherapy works by reducing the production of the “blocking” antibody that causes the reactions. It achieves this through repeated exposure to the allergen, administering a small, incrementally increasing dose via tablet, allergy drops, or injections. 

Over time, repeated exposure helps your body become less sensitive to the allergen, achieving an allergen-specific tolerance that minimizes your reaction or sensitivity when exposed. The process takes time, often requiring multiple years to show the full results. While many folks notice results within the first year, the best results usually show up in the second and third years. 

Is AlT Actually Effective?

Since its introduction over a century ago, countless researchers, scientists, and healthcare providers have evaluated allergy immunotherapy. They’ve documented their findings in a diverse array of studies, clinical trials, and research trials that are published both online and in many books. 

The overwhelming majority of these studies document the remarkable efficacy of allergy immunotherapy. 

For example, a European study evaluated AIT-treated subjects versus a control group. They found that the treatment was consistently associated with more noticeable reductions in allergic rhinitis and asthma prescriptions, including asthma controller and reliever prescriptions, than the control subjects. Furthermore, this study found that the AIT group had a greater likelihood of stepping down asthma treatment than the control group. 

A handful of research and clinical trials showcase the impressive efficacy of repeated subcutaneous injections for achieving an allergen-specific tolerance that remains for years after discontinuation. 

Yet another study evaluated existing evidence to establish the long-term effects of allergy immunotherapy, including sublingual and subcutaneous immunotherapy, for allergic rhinitis. It found that both types are effective in treating allergic rhinitis, offering clinical benefits and immunological changes consistent with allergen-specific tolerance. 

The research is extensive and widely available, so if you want to learn more and delve into the studies documenting the efficacy of this treatment, there’s no shortage of information. These few studies and trials barely scratch the surface, as there are hundreds of books and websites featuring information about this promising treatment. 

Closing Thoughts

Allergy immunotherapy offers promising results for those suffering from various allergies, whether it’s to pet dander or northern pasture grasses. By harnessing the power of the immune system to build an allergen-specific tolerance, immunotherapy provides long-lasting relief for those with pesky allergies. 

If you’re considering the merits of allergy immunotherapy, talk to your healthcare provider or allergist. They can help you determine the best fit for your needs based on your medical history and the severity of your allergies. 


Joan David-Leonhard

Joan David Leonhard is a recent Pharm.D graduate with a strong passion for the pharmaceutical industry and a particular interest in pharmaceutical media and communication. Her brief internship experience includes roles in pharmacy where she built strong patient-pharmacist relationships and a pharmaceutical media internship where she actively contributed to drug information articles, blog posts, social media engagement, and various media projects.
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