Asthma Shots: How Allergy Shots for Asthma Work

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Allergy shots are a form of immunotherapy that can be used to treat underlying allergies that trigger asthma attacks. They work by helping the immune system build up a tolerance to substances that trigger symptoms (called allergens). They can be as effective as corticosteroids and are very beneficial to people with allergic asthma.

This article discusses how allergy shots can benefit people with asthma.

how allergy shots work

Verywell / Alex Dos Diaz

What to Expect From Allergy Shots

Allergy shots are typically given in a healthcare provider's office or clinic that specializes in allergic diseases.

As a safety precaution, most patients are given a prescription for emergency rescue medications such as epinephrine before starting treatment in case a serious allergic reaction (called anaphylaxis) occurs.

With allergy shots, very small amounts of an allergen are initially given once or twice a week. Over time, the amount of allergen injected is gradually increased. This helps your immune system become less reactive to that particular substance. Some people may need to continue treatment for several years.

It's usually required that you remain in the clinic for about a half hour after you receive your shot in case you experience an allergic reaction.

Common Allergens Allergy Shots Can Target

Allergies for which shots are available include:

  • Dust mites
  • Pet dander
  • Certain pollens
  • Mold
  • Some stinging insects

How Long Do Asthma Shots Last?

A typical allergy shot schedule may look something like this:

  • Buildup phase: You will initially receive a small dose of the allergen, which gradually increases, one or two times per week during the buildup phase. This phase generally lasts about three to six months.
  • Maintenance phase: After approximately three to six months of weekly shots, you will achieve your maintenance dose, at which point the number of shots reduces from weekly to one dose every two to four weeks. The maintenance phase may last for three to five years.

Who Needs Asthma Shots?

Individuals who have asthma attacks triggered by allergies to pollen, dust, pet dander, or another allergen for which immunotherapy is available may benefit from allergy shots.

Allergy shots should not be given to:

  • Children under the age of 2 (some healthcare providers prefer not to give allergy shots to kids under 5 years old)
  • People who have had a recent heart attack, unstable angina, or who are on beta-blockers
  • Individuals who are incapable of reporting the side effects of a serious allergic reaction because they are nonverbal or otherwise unable to communicate

Risks of Allergy Shots for Asthma

The most common side effects of allergy shots include pain, redness, and swelling at the injection site.

The primary risk is having an allergic reaction to the allergen in the shot. The severity of this reaction can vary, and life-threatening reactions, called anaphylaxis, are rare.

Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis can cause difficulty breathing, dangerous drops in your blood pressure, and swelling of the face, mouth, tongue, and airway. Anaphylaxis can be treated with an emergency dose of epinephrine and prompt medical treatment.

Summary

Allergy shots can modify a person's immune response to an allergen. For some people with allergic asthma, allergy shots can reduce or eliminate the need for other allergy and asthma medications, including inhaled corticosteroids.

Allergy shot treatment is a significant time commitment. Treatment may take up to five years to complete. The duration of benefits can vary by individual.

A Word From Verywell

Allergic asthma is a common and, unfortunately, debilitating condition. It can interfere with your work and daily activities, and be costly to treat. If you suffer from allergic asthma, talk to your healthcare provider to find out if allergy shots are an appropriate treatment for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the new shot for asthma?

    Tezspire is a subcutaneous injection given once every four weeks to treat asthma. Tezspire targets a molecule called thymic stromal lymphopoietin that contributes to airway inflammation.

  • How much do asthma shots cost?

    The cost of allergy shots varies. Most health insurance policies cover asthma shots. Contact your healthcare provider and, if you have one, your insurance provider for more precise information on cost.

  • What are the types of asthma?

    There are many types of asthma. The main ones include allergic asthma, nonallergic asthma, and cough-variant asthma. Exercise-induced asthma, occupational asthma, or nocturnal asthma could also be included in this list.

  • How long does it take for asthma injections to work?

    Every individual is different, and some people will notice a reduction in symptoms after only a few weeks of treatment. It is more likely, however, to take up to 12 months to really start noticing an improvement in how you feel.

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4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. University of Michigan Health. Allergy shots for asthma.

  2. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Immunotherapy may help people with allergic asthma breathe easier.

  3. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Allergy shots (immunotherapy).

  4. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA approves maintenance treatment for severe asthma.