A One-Shot Approach? Allergy Shots and Asthma

You go to great lengths to use your asthma medication exactly as directed in order to avoid your triggers. Yet despite your best efforts, you can't seem to get the upper hand on your allergic asthma symptoms. If this scenario sounds all too familiar, it may be time to try allergy immunization therapy, which is the formal name for allergy injections or shots.

Combining Allergy Shots and Asthma

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) recommends allergy injections for people whose asthma is related to airborne triggers if their symptoms don't respond well enough to other common prevention and treatment methods.

A number of studies support this advice, showing that when immunization therapy is used on people with persistent allergic asthma, it can reduce airway inflammation, improve breathing, and lessen reliance on medications that can cause side effects. A review on allergy shots and asthma included in the Cochrane Review that was updated in 2009 reveals that some scientists believe that allergy shots can even be as effective as using inhaled steroids.

What's Involved?

If you're tempted to see if this method can help control your allergic asthma symptoms, check with your doctor to see if you're a good candidate. Remember that allergy shots aren't a quick fix. They require an ongoing commitment to build up tolerance to triggers. You'll need to start off receiving a miniscule dose of your allergens in each shot and gradually increase the amount as your body's tolerance builds up. Most people need weekly or biweekly injections for the first six months to a year or more before reaching their maintenance dose and tapering down to biweekly and then monthly visits that may continue for another few years.

At least during the build-up phase, you'll probably need to use your regular asthma medications while you undergo immunization therapy, but over time, your reliance on medication may lessen significantly.

Weighing the Risks

Most people tolerate allergy injections well, but it's important to understand that this therapy does come with some risks. Since the process of immunotherapy exposes you to your triggers, this could occasionally cause a serious allergic reaction or asthma attack. That's why allergy shots are always administered in your doctor's office and the protocol is to wait for about 20 to 30 minutes afterward just in case medical care is needed. If you're concerned about having any type of dangerous reaction, your doctor can help determine if the potential improvement in your asthma condition will outweigh your risks.


Abramson MJ, Puy RM, Weiner JM. "Injection allergen immunotherapy for asthma." Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 8. Art. No.: CD001186. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001186.pub2. 12 April 2009. Web. 16 Oct. 2010.

 "Allergy Shots. Could They Help Your Allergies?" Family Doctor. American Academy of Family Physicians, Sept. 2010. Web. 16 Oct. 2010.

"Immunotherapy." Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. AAFA, 2005. Web. 16 Oct 2010.