Are allergy shots worth it? This is a common question we get and understandable given that allergy shots are a long-term investment for health.
Interestingly, many people don’t understand what allergy shots are, what they do, and that they’re a natural medicine. With allergies becoming more prevalent throughout the world, it’s important we know all the options for allergy treatment.
In this article we’ll discuss whether allergy shots are worth it. My experience with testing and shots can provide you with the information you need to make a decision.
Allergy shots aren’t for everyone so I encourage you to weigh the pros and cons and decide for yourself if allergy shots are worth it. Considerations that we’ll discuss include:
Overview of Allergy Shots
Allergy Shots Time Commitment
Allergy Shots Cost
Allergy Shots Pain
Allergy Shots Benefits
Final Thoughts – Are They Worth It
Overview of Allergy Shots (Subcutaneous Immunotherapy)
The fact that allergy shots are given by injection instills fear in many potential patients. Once we understand how they can decrease allergies will we begin to get past the prick of the needle.
Allergy shots are made using microscopic allergens. Before you begin allergy shots your doctor (an allergist preferably) will test your skin for reactions to various substances. If your skin tests result is positive for an allergic reaction your doctor will advise you on your options.
Environmental allergies are believed to be idea for allergy shots. Environmental allergies included pollens, dust (dust mite), mold, animals/pets, and yeasts.
If you have these allergies there’s a good chance your allergist can treat you with allergy shots. People with minor allergy symptoms or seasonal symptoms might choose a daily antihistamine rather than allergy shot treatment, but those who have severe reactions will want the best possible treatment…and that happens to be allergy shots.
Allergy shots are the closest thing to a cure. You allergens are injected into your body in very small amounts and through repetition the shots retrain your body to stop reacting.
Over time your body should stop, or significantly reduce, their reactions. After all, pollen and dust mites shouldn’t be a threat to our health!
I began allergy shots with a mixture of pollen, dust mite, pet dander, mold, and yeasts. At first the shots were twice weekly, then once weekly and quickly I was getting shots up to two weeks apart.
Each person will react differently to their shots so shot protocol will slightly differ. It takes time to retrain your immune system so most people remain on the shots over a period of years. Ideally, shots will be infrequent after a few years.
I’ve been retested 2 times and my shots have been adjusted based on allergens I’m still reacting to. And I continue to take them based on the results. Let’s take a look at a few points to consider if allergy shots are worth it.
Allergy Shots Time Commitment
The most important thing we should understand is there will be a time commitment. Allergy immunotherapy isn’t a pill we get from the pharmacy (although pharmacy companies are working on it!), nor is it something we do on our own.
In almost all cases we’ll need to visit the doctor’s office to receive a shot and we’ll have to wait a few minutes afterward to monitor the reaction, if any.
The time commitment will be weighted more heavily at the beginning of immunotherapy and decrease as time goes by. As I mentioned earlier, I received my allergy shots 1-2 times per week at the beginning and once I reached a stronger dose my shots could be spread out. This happened over a period of months and years.
It’s best if you live near your allergist otherwise you’ll be traveling a lot. It’s also best to plan on getting shots for up to 5 years. Some people prefer to stay on the shots long term because it gives them peace of mind, while others decide (with their doctor) to stop after a few years.
To receive the shots, most allergy clinics have a waiting area for patients to visit separately from the doctor’s room. Patients can come in, sign in and receive their shot, wait 10 minutes then leave.
Doctor’s appointments with your allergist will be once or twice yearly to check on progress, be retested, and discuss continuing or discontinuing the shots.
In review, the time commitment for allergy shots:
Is substantial early on then decreases
Requires frequent visits to the clinic for shots and 1-2 times doctors visits per year
Is commonly a 5 year process (more or less depending on success)
Allergy Shots Cost
Cost is another factor you’ll likely consider for allergy shots. From an insurance standpoint, most insurers will cover a portion of the allergy shots and they will cover testing and doctors appointments with your allergist.
At times during my allergy shot immunotherapy I changed jobs and lost my insurance and I was forced to pay out of pocket until I began working with new health coverage.
In my experience, the allergy testing and consultations with the allergist are the most important. My first appointment and testing was just over $1,000 dollars but don’t worry, if you have good health insurance the majority of that expense should be taken care of.
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The therapy (or shots themselves) are much cheaper. My shots cost around $20 for 2 shots but once or twice a year my allergist must order custom vials of allergens to make the shots.
Those are more expensive but are less frequent expenses. Once again insurance usually covers the majority of the cost.
Depending on your situation, allergy shots will require some out of pocket expense. I’d estimate that with insurance I pay $1000 per year for my allergy shots and doctors appointments. While that is a significant price to pay, I choose not to put a price on my health.
I also save money on antihistamines and corticosteroids (nasal spray) that I’d have to purchase if I wasn’t on the shots. Considering the money I save on other drugs, the cost really isn’t that bad.
I create a budget at the beginning of the year and save money for my allergy treatment, that way I don’t overspend on other things.
Allergy Shots Pain
While I don’t believe this is a major issue, I know there are some people out there who are terrified by shots. No one likes getting shots so let me explain the process as honestly as possible.
When I first began allergy shot immunotherapy I agreed to it right away. I was desperate for relief and my quality of life was pretty bad. At that time I would have done anything to improve. Thankfully it was only allergy shots!
Through my allergy immunotherapy I’ve learned there are different types of shots. There are shots that inject deep into muscles and there are shots that are meant to be injected just under the skin.
Some needles are thick and intimidating while other needles are tiny. These differences are pretty important when contemplating whether allergy shots are worth it.
Related: My Allergy Shots Side Effects
The good news is that allergy shots use tiny needle and the injection takes place in the fatty tissue of the skin. You’ll feel a little prick during the injection but it won’t penetrate your skin very far nor will it bleed.
As far as shots go, allergy shots are relatively small, thin, and painless. If you were to bite your lip at the same time as the shot you won’t even feel it.
Can you withstand the small pinch of an allergy shot…I bet you can!
Allergy Shots Benefits (Improved My Life)
I’d like to share briefly how allergy shots have improved my life. I suffered for years with allergy symptoms, however, I didn’t realize I had allergies. When you grow up feeling a certain way you begin to think it’s normal. At times I didn’t feel great but I carried on with my life and did well in school.
As a young adult my allergy symptoms progressed and I developed new allergies. At this time I still didn’t know I had allergies but I began to suspect something was wrong.
I visited doctors and dermatologists but they never mentioned the possibility of allergies. Eventually, I made an appointment at an allergist as a last resort and my childhood with allergies began to make sense.
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My first allergy immunotherapy was with allergy drops. Because I was only tested for a few things I didn’t respond well to them.
A year later I visited a different allergist and he tested me for over 100 aeroallergens. I tested positive to most of them. We discussed the way forward and I began allergy shots a few weeks later. My main symptoms were:
Rhinitis (nose congestion)
The first year of allergy shots I felt a tremendous improvement in my allergies. After 2 years my fatigue, rhinitis, and itchy eyes had almost disappeared and my eczema improved a lot as well.
These days I’m still taking allergy shots and I experience minor eczema but I feel like a different person. I owe most of my improvement to allergy shots. They retrained my immune system to calm down!
Final Thoughts – Are Allergy Shots Worth It
For others considering allergy shots I definitely believe allergy shots are worth it. It took a long time but I was committed to improving and I did. Patience is important with allergy shots as the changes don’t come overnight.
I began feeling better about 6 months in and continued improvement ever since. Adult professionals with work and responsibilities might have a tough time scheduling their shots. This is even more true if they travel for work.
Kids, on the other hand, tend to have more time for treatment and travel less. I especially recommend allergy shots for teenagers because doing it earlier can reduce the chance of developing new allergies.
Catching and treating allergies early in life will make life better in adulthood! I waited far too long to see an allergist and receive treatment.
The cost of allergy shots is an investment for your health. Cut down on other leisure activities like going to the movies and going out to eat and watch Netflix with a homemade dinner (you’ll still have fun).
Lastly, the pain of allergy shots is a minor aspect to consider. Most people get comfortable with the process quickly. The injections are small and easily go into the fatty tissue under the skin. No scary needles with allergy shots!
In this article we discussed if allergy shots are worth it. The answered to this depends on the individual. If symptoms are minor and seasonal, then allergy shots might not be the best option. Antihistamines can help for a short period of time.
If symptoms are serious and negatively affect your work and social life, then allergy shots might be a priority. They take time to work and require patience but they can significantly reduce symptoms, sometimes permanently.
Time is the biggest factor to consider. If you live in or near a city, you might have a number of allergists nearby who can help. If you live in a rural area allergy shots might require driving long distances every week until shots are spread out.
You’ll also have to weigh the cost associated with allergy shots. Can you afford the cost? Do you have good insurance? These are things each person or family should think about before determining whether allergy shots are worth it.
My experience has been positive and I continue to take the shots because I get results. My quality of life has improved significantly which means I’m more productive at work and more outgoing socially.
I hope this article helps you decide if allergy shots are worth it. Visit our blog for other allergy articles where we discuss dust mites, allergy shots, eczema, and products. Thanks for reading!