Allergy shots are a long-term treatment option for allergy symptoms. They’ve very effective and have no long-term side effects. Risks may include allergy symptoms shortly after receiving your shot. You may need regular allergy shots for up to five years.
Allergy shots are injections that you receive over a long period of time to help reduce or even prevent allergy symptoms.
Allergens are substances that cause your immune system to overreact, which leads to allergy symptoms. Allergy shots contain trace amounts of allergens. They slowly desensitize your body to allergens by changing your body’s reaction from inflammation to tolerance. Over time, the allergen amount in your shot increases. This helps strengthen your immune system so that you have no allergic reaction or a minor reaction the next time you encounter the allergen.
Other names for allergy shots include:
Allergy shots are available for the following allergies:
Allergy shots are very common. Healthcare providers have prescribed them more than any other type of allergy immunotherapy for over 100 years.
Anyone over 5 years of age can receive allergy shots. An allergist will determine if allergy shots are safe and effective for you or your child.
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A healthcare provider will clean your skin with a disinfectant (usually an alcohol pad) before they inject the allergy shot into your upper arm, though they may also administer it in your thigh or hip.
You must stay at your allergist’s office for at least 30 minutes after you receive your shot so they can monitor and treat you for a potential allergic reaction. Allergic reaction symptoms may include:
Severe allergic reaction symptoms may include anaphylaxis, which may cause:
Treatment for a severe allergic reaction may include an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen®).
After your allergy shots, you should avoid exercising or taking a hot bath or shower for at least two hours. Exercise and a hot bath can increase blood flow to your tissues. This can cause the allergens in your shots to spread throughout your body faster. It likely won’t cause a serious problem, but it’s a good idea to wait.
Don’t take allergy shots if you:
Once you reach the maintenance phase, an allergy shot lasts about one month. The maintenance phase may last up to five years or longer until you no longer need to receive allergy shots.
Don’t expect your allergy symptoms to improve immediately. For most people, it takes six to eight months to start noticing a reduction in their symptoms. It may take a full 12 months to see the full benefits.
For most people, allergy shots are usually safe. But allergy shots contain tiny amounts of allergens. If you have an allergic reaction to an allergy shot, your allergist will quickly give you medicine to stop it.
Most people get allergy shots so they have no allergy symptoms or reduced symptoms that they don’t need to treat with medicines. But if you have severe allergy symptoms, allergy shots can help protect you from severe symptoms, hospitalization and death.
Yes, allergy shots are usually a good way to reduce long-term (chronic) allergy symptoms. They don’t cure your allergies, but you won’t need to use much or any medicine to relieve symptoms.
Keep in mind that it may take up to a year of regular allergy shots before you start to see an improvement in your symptoms.
About 80% of people see significant improvement in their allergy symptoms. This means there’s a reduction in their symptoms, though they won’t necessarily completely go away. About 60% of people have permanent benefits after three to five years of allergy shots.
You may have an allergic reaction after receiving an allergy shot. Mild reactions include a stuffy nose, sneezing or hives. Severe reactions are rare, but may include difficulty breathing and a feeling of tightness in your chest. An allergist will monitor you for at least 30 minutes after giving you an allergy shot. They can treat you if you develop a reaction.
If you’re afraid of needles (trypanophobia), it helps to know allergists use very small needles to give allergy shots — usually 27 gauge, which is about half the size of a ballpoint pen tip.
No, allergy shots have no long-term risks or complications.
It depends. Your body is unique, and how you respond to allergy shots may be different from others. Some people may notice their symptoms improving six to eight months into the buildup phase. Others may take up to 12 months before they have noticeable improvement.
Reach out to your healthcare provider if:
The cost of allergy shots is usually between $1,000 to $4,000 per year. But the price varies between allergists, medical facilities and health insurance coverage. Talk to an allergist to better understand their exact pricing.
Allergy drops (sublingual immunotherapy or SLIT) are a type of liquid medicine you take under your tongue to treat allergy symptoms. They don’t have approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so insurance doesn’t cover allergy drops.
Allergy tablets are another type of SLIT that has FDA approval. Currently, you can only use allergy tablets to treat certain airborne allergens. The following allergy tablets have FDA approval:
Allergy shots are injections that help treat allergy symptoms. An allergist usually gives you the injection in your arm.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Allergy shots are a common, effective treatment for your annoying or even life-threatening allergy symptoms. It can be tough to be patient — you may not notice an improvement in your symptoms for up to a year, and you may need regular shots for five years or longer — but they can provide a great amount of relief from severe allergies. Talk to a healthcare provider about whether allergy shots are a good option for you.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/09/2023.
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