I’ve had horrible allergies my whole life. Like- I’ve had to be sent home from school, work, etc because of how severe it got. I could sneeze up to 100 times an hour. I needed a solution, and so I was wondering: do allergy shots really work?
Without trying to sound weird- at times death seemed almost a better option. Why am I saying this? To basically highlight that I was almost an outlier for allergies.
My allergies were SO INCREDIBLY SEVERE that I thought allergy shots wouldn’t even work. So, do allergy shots really work?
Yes! They work INCREDIBLY WELL!!! In just the first 2 months I had noticed almost a night and day difference. I’m almost convinced those days of sneezing 100 times per hour are GONE from my life forever.
So, let’s discuss this- and what you can realistically expect from allergy shots.
My Allergies Were Some of The Worst Allergies Possible
I know many people with very mild allergies won’t consider allergy shots. Generally, only the people with some of the worst allergies are going to be looking into this option.
I was no exception. But without trying to give some ‘sob story’- my allergies literally impacted my life daily. I literally would get anxious about the amount of pollen or cat dander in the air.
And sometimes- I’d get blindsided. I remember one time I got sent home from school in January due to my allergies. I had sneezed over 50 times in one class period (only 1 hour long).
Did you catch that? January- in some of the lowest overall pollen/dander count months of the year- here I was out of action. And for what it’s worth, my most severe allergies are grass and tree allergens. There’s not really a good explanation of why I was so messed up.
My Symptoms And Unfun Life
My symptoms included things like:
- Sneezing hundreds of times per hour.
- Getting bad rashes.
- Not being able to talk/focus in class.
- The allergy anti-histamines I had to take didn’t help this!
- Runny nose.
This really impacted my life. I was taking many allergy anti-histamines a day and my symptoms were still so severe.
I had to call in sick to work randomly- because my allergies would randomly made it IMPOSSIBLE to do anything.
I got sent home from school too- many times. It just wasn’t possible to even focus in class.
This led me to taking many online classes to help offset this- but to no avail.
So, I ended up trying to find a solution. That’s when I found out about allergy shots, or allergen immunotherapy.
My Mom Had a Bad Experience- So She Wasn’t Too Sure
My mom had gotten allergy shots for her allergies when she was younger- and she said they didn’t help much.
If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you’ll know I have a medical background.
Now, I love my mom to death and trust her, but she got her shots nearly 40 years ago. And truthfully, allergy shots were not that effective back in the day.
But I trust that modern medicine has come a long way. At the hospital I work at, some of the technology we have even surprised me! (Like the lucas machine AKA the automatic CPR machine)
So, she brushed it off. And she wasn’t completely unjust for it. Back when she got the shots, they didn’t do much for her and she still suffers from many bad allergy symptoms today.
While I believed her, I just wanted any sort of relief. Even if meant one less sneeze a day- I was desperate.
I Couldn’t Even Be Around Animals Or Go Outside
I couldn’t go around dogs, cats, or even go outside.
Even in some of my YouTube videos where I go on hour-long runs outside- it was just horrible. I would come home and sneeze until I passed out from the Benadryl.
Going outside or even a dog/cat brushing up on me was basically near-fatal.
I really just wanted some help.
Do Allergy Shots Work? My Experience
Now that you know a little bit of history in regards to how severe my allergies were, you’ll understand the impact these things truly had.
I had to stop going on hour long runs outside because of my allergies.
Now- I am a firm believer in the whole ‘prevention’ idea. So like, don’t expose yourself to allergies if possible.
That means for me, I had to change my running routes. I also have to shower and change clothes often.
But I think when you get allergy shots, you have to come in with a different mindset.
Allergy Shots Are Not An ‘End-All’ But ‘Helper’ Mindset
I think the problem many people have is that they come in with this idea that allergy shots like- delete their allergies?
Some people think if they take these shots for like 2 weeks they will never even sneeze again.
This is simply a wrong mindset- at least at the time of writing this, 2020.
People need to look at allergy shots as a ‘helper’ and not an ‘end-all’ solution.
Tommy, what is that exactly supposed to mean?
This means you still do your normal precautions every day. You know- avoiding your allergens as you are able to and taking your normal anti-histamines every day.
But, these allergy shots are meant for the event you get into a bad exposure.
For instance, my allergies can be really weird. I have a huge timothy grass allergy, and its’ pollen pattern is REALLY weird.
This means even if I check the pollen forecasts and I try to avoid it, there’s still a chance I could get nabbed hard by it.
In this instance, I am still trying to prevent exposure- but this error I am making is being remedied by the allergy shots. Instead of having a full like physical breakdown to some stupid pollen, I’ll have a few sneezes instead and be done.
It’s Like Wearing a Bulletproof Vest
Does this make sense? It’s like wearing a bulletproof vest.
Just because you wear the bulletproof vest doesn’t mean you can’t get shot. And the vest isn’t always 100% effective against all bullets.
And you know what? When police wear bulletproof vests, they are trying to avoid bullets if possible. This means de-escalating the situation, creating distance, taking cover, etc.
It’s the same thing here. If you know it’s a bad allergy day, try to avoid going outside if you can. But now- if you’re forced to, it’s not going to be as bad. Sometimes that bulletproof vest can make you not even know you got shot.
You might not have any symptoms that day or just have some mild symptoms. Do you see what I mean?
My Personal Experience (AWESOME!)
To answer the question, do allergy shots really work, I have to say: YES.
I do my due-diligence as an allergy sufferer to avoid contact with pollen and pet dander if possible. This isn’t always something I can do.
So- here’s my personal experience.
Weeks 1-4: Tiny Improvement
In weeks 1-4, I was honestly very skeptical of the whole thing. But I noticed tiny improvements.
I noticed tiny things like feeling a little bit better when I woke up and not having as severe rash reactions or sneezing.
Overall though, there wasn’t a huge difference. I didn’t really see much improvement and I still took my anti-histamines.
But around the 6th week mark is when things got really good.
Weeks 5+ – I REALLY Noticed It
Around the 5th week mark of taking shots, I really started to notice a difference.
So- my girlfriend has a dog that can actually mess with me pretty bad. I’d preemptively take a lot of anti-histamines and it would help, but when I got home- I would always have to wash my clothes and get the dander off.
I started to subconsciously notice that when I was around her dog- it didn’t affect me as much. And I was on fewer anti-histamines than before.
This means quite literally these allergy shots were working in action. Before I would start sneezing frequently and even get some asthma symptoms flaring up. Now I will only start to feel a sneeze coming after a long time of being exposed.
Plus- that’s usually only when I haven’t taken my Allegra when I take it- no problems at all. It’s a life-changer.
Do Allergy Shots Really Work? My Experience Outdoors
So my allergy with dogs was improved. How about my experience outdoors? Timothy grass is one of my biggest allergies, along with Maple. So how has it affected me?
Uh, it’s actually like a crazy difference.
I remember any day I would wake up congested and ill- it was because they were mowing the grass outside.
Now I don’t even have to worry about that. Furthermore, if my family leaves the windows open I’m not suffering all day anymore.
Now, I still sneeze and have some symptoms time-to-time. But it’s like a world of difference. I no longer wake up feeling incredibly congested and horrible. And the sneezing is way more manageable.
I don’t feel scared to go running outside anymore. Usually, I would not go running unless I had like all of my allergy meds put together.
I just take my normal Zyrtec and Flonase now, I don’t bother with taking my powerful azelastine and allegra. I also don’t feel the need to shower right after either.
Sure- I will have some small sneezing and coughing fits a little after. But metaphorically- it’s like having a tiny hole in the ship.
Sure, after time if you don’t fix that, the ship will sink. So when you get home try to change clothes and get rid of it. But the ship doesn’t just capsize anymore like it used to.
Do Allergy Shots Really Work? My Experience With Cats
So, I didn’t mention it discretely before. But cats are actually my biggest allergy, by far.
So when they do the testing, they only test up to a certain amount of immune cell response.
So my dog allergy is around 30, the grass around 10, and the cat one is unsure because it maxes out at 100. This means it could be at 100, or 10,000,000 for the immune response.
Needless to say, me around cats is bad.
In fact, when I was in 2nd grade- I had a severe allergic reaction to my friend’s cat. It was so bad I almost got hospitalized for it- I couldn’t breathe. My family tossed just about every asthma anti-histamines in the book at me.
After I got away from the cat, things got a little better. But at this point- I knew cats weren’t the best thing for me to be around.
Unfortunately- I Just Got a New Cat
My family tries to buy hypoallergenic cats. But- they have their limits. It reduces the allergens, but it still can cause a reaction.
Many people online have actually reported becoming immune to their own cat’s dander in the house. Meaning they will react to another cat, but not their own.
This is likely due to the repeated exposure. This is similar to how allergy shots work.
Well, my family bought a new cat. No- they didn’t ask me if I was okay with it.
This guy isn’t so hypoallergenic. And I blame him for a lot of my allergic reactions this year. I think this year was my worst year by far. My worst year was 2015, and that’s when I was put on Flonase officially.
2019 was my worst year. Ever since we bought this cat my allergies have been horrible.
The Allergy Shots Have Brought Me Happiness Again
One of my worst things that happened was just about a week before I started the allergy shots.
The new cat cuddled with me while I was sleeping (Awwwww)- that was until I woke up a few hours later in a hay fever frenzy.
Needless to say, it was upsetting. I couldn’t even enjoy this new cat I had in the house. He got into my bed once for a little bit- and I had to call in sick for work and stay home all day.
Not a lot I can do about that…until I started the allergy shots.
A few days ago- he did the same thing. And he was really vicious, he kept hopping on the bed after I kicked him out, etc.
I honestly went back to sleep incredibly anxious. I was worried I would have to call in sick to work again!
I woke up, and nothing was wrong. I quickly rushed over to my Zyrtec/Flonase combo to try and stop anything in its’ tracks before it got too crazy- but it wasn’t needed.
I continued on with my day as nothing happened. I was a tiny bit sniffly, but man- it was barely noticeable.
These Allergy Shots Have CHANGED My Life!
The anxiety I had, whenever I was exposed to allergens, was crazy. So let’s recap here on the topic of allergy shots working:
The Fundamentals For Allergy Shots
Here are some fundamentals for allergy shots YOU can follow to ensure that you know what you’re getting into.
Rule #1 – They Aren’t An ‘End-All’- But They Help A TON!
If you search, do allergy shots work into Google, you’re going to find some people saying they still have allergy problems.
Yeah- that’s the problem. Allergy shots just can’t stop your entire immune system from reacting to histamines. If that was possible- none of us would ever get sick or anything like that again.
Don’t go into your clinic expecting to never sneeze or cough again. But expect to have the majority of your most severe symptoms reduced heavily.
This means for people like me, not having to worry about sneezing 50-100 times an hour anymore. For people with allergy-induced Asthma, it means a reduction in what triggers that.
They won’t stop everything, but they will help. A lot.
Rule #2 – Still Try To Avoid Your Allergy Triggers
Just because you got allergy shots DOES NOT mean you’re immune to allergies. Try to avoid your triggers when possible.
That means if you see it’s like a severe day for your allergy outside via a pollen app or something, don’t go outside.
For instance, even though by my worst allergy time of the year I’ll have a full year of allergy shots, I still check the pollen map.
If I see everything in red saying, ‘MAPLE IS AT AN ALL TIME POLLEN HIGH!’-guess what? I’m going to stay inside.
Rule #3 – Meet With Your Allergist and Ask Questions
Your allergist knows more about this than you and I ever will. And here’s the thing, I have a big interest in medicine- and it’s hard to find anything about this stuff even on Google.
And here’s the secret nobody wants to tell you: Allergies are an incredibly difficult thing to understand.
It’s like sometimes you can go outside on a day where your allergy is at an all-time high, and not even react in the slightest. But then some days, it’s barely exposed to you and you’re getting an EpiPen put into you.
Your allergist has seen it all, and there are things that your allergist knows that aren’t in any medical book or google search anywhere.
For instance, my allergist told me that the anti-histamine, Singulair, is really good for people with cat allergies. But people don’t really talk about that.
If I had never asked- I would’ve never known about that!
Do Allergy Shots Really Work? A Summary
Yes! Allergy shots really work. They won’t completely get rid of your allergies forever, but they sure as heck will do a great job at reducing it.
Check in with your allergist and ask about it. They’ve changed my life forever.