January 11, 2018

Should I get allergy shots? Answers to common questions


If you experience symptoms year-round and your antihistamine isn’t cutting it, you may want to look into this highly effective treatment.


Pets, the great outdoors, the changing of the seasons — these are all things that can bring on sneezing, sniffling, stuffy nose, watery eyes and wheezing. Antihistamines offer an immediate, short-term option, but allergy shots might be a better choice to curtail symptoms and even cure your allergies. We asked David Hagaman, M.D., at Vanderbilt’s Asthma, Sinus & Allergy Program about the extremely effective therapy.


Who should get allergy shots?

Allergies can be treated in three ways. You can either avoid whatever makes you miserable, take antihistamines, or, if you don’t mind needles, try allergy shots. “The way that I treat my patients is that we always try medicine and avoidance first,” Hagaman said. “Then we reserve shots for the patients who don’t respond to medicine and avoidance or for those folks who don’t want to take much medicine — either because of side effects or inconvenience.”


Do allergy shots really work?

Allergy shots are a potential cure for allergies, whereas other remedies offer only temporary symptom relief. “They are absolutely very effective,” Hagaman said. “It’s been proven over and over that these shots will work if you give the patient a high enough dosage and for the right things.” Allergy shots are appropriate if you have household, seasonal, animal dander or insect sting allergies. They do not work for food allergies.


What is the commitment level?

Unlike popping a pill, getting allergy shots is more time consuming in both the short and long term. When starting allergy shots, you’ll undergo a build-up phase. That’s where you’ll start a very low dosage that slowly increases over the next two or three months. During that time, you’ll get your shots twice a week. You’ll also be required to spend 30 minutes or more at your doctor’s office after you receive your shot. Once that phase is complete, then you’ll get a shot just twice a month. But you’ll still need to spend at least 30 minutes at the clinic. For maximum effectiveness, you will take allergy shots for three to five years. “It is a big commitment,” Hagaman said. Vanderbilt does offer a rush immunotherapy program for some patients who are looking to speed up the build-up phase. “It’s a lot easier to get shots twice a month than twice a week,” he said.


What are the risks?

Patients must wait 30 minutes after receiving an allergy shot just in case there is a reaction to the small amounts of allergens that are injected. “If they’re going to have a reaction, it will happen during that time, and we’ll be able to treat them while they’re in the office,” he explained.


How much do allergy shots cost?

Thankfully, insurance companies realize the benefits of allergy shots, and most of them are open to covering immunotherapy as a benefit.


Can allergy shots help with asthma?

If someone has allergy-induced asthma and receives allergy shots, it could improve his or her asthma symptoms. For kids, shots could make a world of difference. “If you start an allergic child on immunotherapy,” Hagaman said, “oftentimes you can go on and prevent them from having asthma.”

Seasonal Allergies

Learn more

Contact Vanderbilt Asthma, Sinus and Allergy Program for an evaluation and the most up-to-date treatment recommendations. Call 615-936-2727 for an appointment.

7 thoughts on “Should I get allergy shots? Answers to common questions”

  1. Bethany Birchridge says:

    I think it’s really cool that allergy shots are a longer term solution to allergies than antihistamines.My little brother has horrid allergies and is always sniffing–regardless of the season. I think I’ll bring up allergy shots with him. Do you have any tips for choosing a doctor to treat allergies?

    1. My Southern Health says:

      Hello, Bethany. If you live in the Nashville area, Vanderbilt Asthma, Sinus and Allergy Program can help with an evaluation and the most up-to-date treatment recommendations. See this link for more information – – or call 615-936-2727. If you live in another area, it might be helpful to consult your primary-care provider for guidance. Hope this helps!

  2. Khorae Olivier says:

    I really like how you talked about getting allergy shots to help manage and even decrease your allergies. I have really bad allergies to most plants and furred animals, so I’ve been considering going into allergy shots to see if I can make it so I’m not sick every spring with major hayfever. Thank you for the information about how there’s a build-up phase to start with a low dosage that increases over the next two or three months. It’s good to know how it will start.

  3. Tiffany Locke says:

    I like that you mention how allergy shots are a potential cure and a good idea if you’re allergic to household, seasonal, animal dander, or insect stings. If you’re interested in this treatment method, you’d probably want to consult your doctor. Talking to a professional who understands your situation and symptoms could help you determine whether allergy shots will provide you the help you need to be more comfortable.

  4. Caden Dahl says:

    I’ve been thinking about going to get allergy shots as with every year, mine are quite bad. As you said, the shots are very effective if you are given the proper dosage for the allergy you are reacting to. I’ll have to look more into it and find an allergy doctor by me that could do this for me.

  5. Holly Woods-Hills says:

    I just recently got my scratch test done and a couple weeks later went in for my first set. As soon as the first shot went in I felt burning and not a second later my other injection was administered. I instantly passed out and woke up to doctors all around me. They had said that my heart rate dropped below 40 and my blood pressure was low. Obviously that isn’t anaphylactic shock. Can you give some hindsight on what happened to me?? My doctors are scratching their heads and now I’m a quinea pig to blood work, brain scans and heart untrasounds with no answers yet. I’m frustrated!!

    1. My Southern Health says:

      Hello, Holly. We’re so sorry to hear about what happened to you. We can’t give individual medical advice here, but it sounds like your doctors are continuing to try to get to the bottom of the issue. We truly hope you get answers soon.

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