Can You Have Allergy Shots During Pregnancy?

Allergy shots, or subcutaneous immunotherapy, have been given for over a century for the treatment of allergic rhinitisallergic conjunctivitisallergic asthma, and atopic dermatitis. Allergy shots are also used for venom allergy, but not for food allergies. Immunotherapy is the only treatment for allergies that can effectively cure, or at least significantly reduce, the symptoms of allergies.

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Allergy shots involve the administration of an allergen (such as pollens, pet dander, molds, and dust mites), which would seem to worsen allergy symptoms. When allergens are administered in an injection form under the skin, however, the body treats the allergens more like a vaccine.

The nuts and bolts of immunotherapy consist of giving small doses that will not cause an allergic reaction, then slowly advancing the dose until larger amounts of the allergen are tolerated. Injections are given once to twice a week initially until maintenance or constant dose is achieved. This may take 3 to 6 months to reach the maintenance dose. Once reached, the maintenance dose will result in the resolution of most of a person's allergy symptoms. At this point, allergen injections are given every two to four weeks for a total of 3 to 5 years total. After receiving at least 3 years of immunotherapy, the patient continues to get benefits for another 5 to 10 years or longer, even after the shots are stopped. If the shots are stopped prior to a total of 3 years, the allergic symptoms typically return more quickly.

Allergy Shots During Pregnancy

Allergic rhinitis and asthma can be significant problems during pregnancy, and allergy shots can be extremely helpful in treating these. Women who are currently receiving allergy shots at the time they become pregnant may continue to benefit from these therapies. Many women wonder if allergy shots are safe to be given during pregnancy.

Safety Considerations

Allergy shots can be continued during pregnancy, but it is not recommended to start this treatment while pregnant. Typically, the dose of the allergy shots is not increased during pregnancy, and many allergists decrease the dose. Some allergists feel that allergy shots should be stopped during pregnancy, given the risk of anaphylaxis and possible danger to the fetus as a result. Other than anaphylaxis, no data shows that the allergy shots themselves are actually harmful to the fetus.

A discussion of the risks and benefits of continuing allergy shots during pregnancy should be had between the patient and allergist, with input from the patient’s obstetrician, before deciding on a treatment regimen.

Find out more about the basics of allergy shots.

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