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Houston ENT and Allergy Blog

Antigen Therapy Services for Allergies: Uses, Reasons and Indications

By:
Patricia Leonard, MD
February 09, 2018

 allergen therapy services in Houston Texas

If you’re struggling with allergies here in Houston, you likely know how frustrating the symptoms can be when you can’t find relief. Because allergies are an overreaction of your immune system to a certain antigen, they can cause you to have a runny nose, sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, nasal congestion, wheezing and more.

Allergy symptoms can range from a simple nuisance to life-threatening. Some individuals with an allergic reaction can experience a severe reaction known as anaphylaxis, also called an anaphylactic shock, that can be life-threatening.  Severe reactions can result in dizziness, throat tightening, passing out, and weak pulse. If someone around you is suffering from an allergic reaction and has an auto-injector, be sure they receive an injection immediately. Also, call 911 right away.

The most common cause of anaphylactic shock results from exposure to a stinging insect and eating certain foods (especially peanuts). In some cases exercise and being exposed to latex triggers it.

The good news is your Houston ENT allergist can help through the use of antigen therapy for allergies.

 

Uses of Antigen Therapy

An antigen is a substance that causes allergies. Some examples of antigens include:

  • Pollen

  • Dust

  • Insect venom

  • Mold

  • Dairy products

  • Eggs

  • Fish

  • Corn

  • Wheat

  • Peanuts

The National Institute of Health reports that almost a hundred years has passed since the first description of antigen-SIT or antigen-specific immunotherapy. There's been a dramatic increase in the research surrounding the use of antigen-specific immunotherapy for treating both allergic and autoimmune disease. Researchers, however, are still learning exactly how it works, but one thing they do know is that it works in many individuals to relieve allergy symptoms.

Different methods of antigen therapy include:

  • Low dose allergen treatment (LDA)

  • Allergen Immunotherapy

  • Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT)

 

Low Dose Allergen Treatment (LDA)

LDA is an effective and safe method of immunotherapy doctors use to treat environmental and food allergies. LDA is way different from other treatments for allergies and contains special antigens that work at restoring the immune tolerance of your body to the environment both inside and outside your body.

Doctors use it to treat numerous different conditions and it can be a good long-lasting treatment choice for allergies and autoimmune conditions. By regulating the immune system, it can also help with various chronic conditions as well, such as autoimmune dysfunction and Lyme disease.

LDA is considered an effective and safe treatment for relieving immune reactions such as:

  • Food allergies

  • Environmental allergies like dust, dog, mold and hay fever

  • Chemical sensitivities

  • Inflammatory bowel (IBS) like Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's

  • Inhalant and food-related conditions

  • Skin allergies and conditions like eczema, dermatitis and rosacea

  • Endometriosis

  • Depression

  • Chronic ear infections

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome

  • Tonsillitis

  • Asthma, rhinitis, pharyngitis and sinusitis

  • Lyme disease

  • ADHD spectrum

  • Autism spectrum

  • Food triggered migraines and headaches

LDA can also help with autoimmune conditions like:

  • Inflammatory arthritis

  • Inflammatory bowel

  • ITP

  • Ankylosing spondylitis

  • Reactive arthritis

  • Autoimmune thyroiditis

  • Interstitial cystitis

  • SLE

There's a long list of immune reactions and autoimmune conditions LDA may help with.

 

Allergen Immunotherapy

Allergen immunotherapy (allergy shots) is a type of long-term therapy doctors use to reduce symptoms in individuals with:

  • Allergic asthma

  • Allergic rhinitis

  • Insect allergy

  • Conjunctivitis (eye allergy)

  • Stinging

Allergen immunotherapy reduces allergen sensitivity and usually results in long-term relief of allergy symptoms. The relief often goes on even after you stop treatment. Because of this, many individuals consider it a beneficial and cost-effective treatment.

 

Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT)

SLIT is another type of treatment for allergies but with no injections. You receive a small dose of an allergen under your tongue to increase your tolerance to that substance and decrease your symptoms. While most people suffering with allergies respond well to allergy drops, they're particularly beneficial for individuals who don't respond well or can't tolerate allergy shots.

They're also good for people who can't make a commitment to allergy shot therapy such as:

  • Children and infants

  • Individuals with extremely sensitive conditions

  • Asthmatics

  • Individuals with sinusitis and other chronic conditions

  • Individuals with mold and food allergies

  • Individuals with various allergies like pollen, dust, animals and food

Then allergy drops contain the same FDA-approved antigens as those in allergy shots. Manufacturers also prepare them in the same manner as allergy shots. The route of administration is really the only difference between allergy drops and allergy shots. SLIT delivers an antigen drop under your tongue instead of having the antigen injected into your tissue.

Like any medication, for SLIT t work effectively, you need to stick with it. Your doctor will prescribe you a certain time frame in which you’ll take the drops before you can discontinue using them. For long-term effectiveness, it’s essential you stick to your doctors orders.

SLIT seems particularly helpful in kids with recurrent ear infections and eczema where there usually isn't an underlying allergic cause. Often kids who have untreated allergies and eczema end up developing asthma later on in life and other chronic conditions. Therefore, early treatment can provide lifelong benefits and could help prevent asthma and allergy development.

Presently, the FDA only approves SLIT in tablet form for grass pollen and ragweed.

 

Reasons for Antigen Therapy Services

Some reasons you may wish to consider antigen therapy services:

  • If your current medications (decongestants, antihistamines) to control your symptoms aren't working.

  • If your current medications are producing too many side effects.

  • If your developing ear infections, sinus infections or other complications.

  • If you have allergy-triggered asthma.

  • If your symptoms flare up again when you reduce your medication.

  • If you're susceptible to developing a severe reaction when exposed to an allergen.

  • If you can't seem to avoid triggers of your allergies.

  • If you're looking to treat the underlying problem; not just the symptoms.

  • If medications are too costly for you.

 

Indications of Antigen Therapy

If you're suffering from any of these symptoms below, they could be an indication you have allergies and could use antigen therapy:

  • Runny, itchy eyes or nose

  • Coughing, wheezing, sneezing and asthma

  • Joint aches

  • Airway closes up

  • Ear fullness sensation

  • Rashes like eczema and hives

  • Diarrhea and vomiting, abdominal pain, bloating and other gastrointestinal symptoms

  • Changes in mood, behavior or handwriting

Antigen therapy has been shown to reduce allergy symptoms. It may prevent you from developing new allergies. In kids, it could prevent allergic disease progression from allergic rhinitis to asthma.

How effective antigen therapy seems to relate to the dose of the allergen and the length of treatment. Some individuals seem to have long-lasting allergy symptom relief, while others end up relapsing the minute they stop allergy shots.

If you're not responding to antigen therapy shots it could be due to certain things like:

  • Missing allergens that weren't recognized in the allergy evaluation

  • Wrong allergen dose in the allergy vaccine

  • High environmental allergen levels

  • Substantial exposure to tobacco smoke and other non-allergic triggers

Generally, children have a faster response than adults; sometimes an immediate response after their first injection. Other times, it could take more doses before they respond.

While immunotherapy doesn't always work for every person, it does provide those suffering from allergies the possibility of stopping or reducing their current medication and still experience relief from their symptoms.

If you have allergies and want to learn more about antigen therapy services for allergies at Houston ENT, give us a call at  281-649-7000 or request an appointment by completing our online form.

 

Learn More About Allergy Treatments Here

By Patricia Leonard MD