What is immunotherapy and how is it administered?
The Immunotherapy, also known as allergy vaccines, consists of administering larger and larger doses of the allergen to which the patient is sensitised in an attempt to stimulate immunity and get the patient to tolerate natural exposure.
It is performed with a so-called allergen extract obtained from the natural allergen source: Pollen, mites, etc.
It has been confirmed to have a preventive effect on the onset of new sensitisations to allergens, and on the potential for the disease to progress from rhinitis alone to the added complication of asthma.
It may be performed subcutaneously, by injection, or sublingually.
It is indicated for rhinitis and asthma as well as allergies to bee and wasp stings. It may be used to treat allergies to pollen, mites, animal dander and fungi.
Normally it is not indicated for food allergies. In this case, avoidance remains the best therapeutic option. However, in some causes a treatment regimen of inducing oral tolerance to certain foods such as milk or eggs may be established.
Immunotherapy consists of two phases: an initiationphase and a maintenance . In the initiation phase, larger and larger doses of the allergen extract are given on a weekly basis until an effective dose is reached that stimulates the immune system without causing allergy symptoms. This point marks entry into the maintenance phase, where this dose is administered every 4 weeks for a period of 3-5 years.
Currently, there are products that greatly shorten the initiation phase by achieving the maintenance dose in a single day and require only monthly injections. These treatments are much more convenient for patients.
Beneficial effects on symptoms may appear three months into treatment, but are most often seen after a few more months, in the maintenance phase.
Allergy vaccines, or immunotherapy, are the only treatments that address underlying allergic disease.