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Allergy shots: Do you need them?

Could allergy shots help me? That’s a question you might ask your primary care provider if medications and other steps to control your allergies don’t seem to be working.

Allergy shots are usually made just for you. They contain tiny amounts of allergens—things that you’re allergic to—and work like vaccines. Your body reacts to an increasing amount of a specific allergen, given in gradually increasing doses. Then you develop an immunity or tolerance to that allergen.

The shots work for allergies to:

  • Pollen from trees, weeds and grasses.
  • Mold spores in the outside air.
  • Cat or dog dander (tiny flakes of fur, hair and skin).
  • Dust mites (tiny insects found in dust).

Your provider may also suggest allergy shots if you’ve had a serious reaction to a sting from a bee or other insect.

But they aren’t effective against allergies to food, latex or medicines.

How long should you take them?

Most people take allergy shots for three to five years. But some people may need to take them longer. It’s important that you don’t stop getting the shots without an OK from your provider. Otherwise, you might not get their full benefit.

Sources: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology; UpToDate

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