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What you need to know about

Subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT)

What is subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT)?

  • Therapy used to decrease sensitivity to allergic triggers by injecting gradually increasing doses of allergen extract to help immune system build up natural immunity and decrease allergic reactions
  • Considered the most effective treatment course available in nearly eliminating an allergic reaction
  • Available for treating seasonal and perennial (year-round) eye and nasal allergy, allergically induced asthma and stinging insect allergy
  • Can’t be used for food allergy, hives, eczema or poison ivy

How it works

  • A small sample of an allergen (pollen, grass, animal dander, mold, food) is applied to the skin, assessing for a reaction or a hive to appear.
  • Our allergists have access to samples of 100+ allergens to determine which allergens to test for based on medical history, environmental survey and physical examination.
  • Once the allergens are placed, results are read in 20 minutes.
  • For positive results, our allergists use their extensive training and experience to develop safe extract prescriptions based on individual test specifics and tolerance. This is essential because extracts containing the wrong allergens or weak concentrations will be ineffective, and overly strong concentrations may cause undesired allergic reactions.
  • Allergen extract injections are usually given at our office or your primary care physician’s office once a week for 20-25 weeks, then monthly for up to five years.

Risks and side effects

  • Risks are minimal. Some patients may have a local reaction (i.e., itch, tenderness or swelling at injection site) that’s easily treated with ice and/or antihistamine before or after injection.
  • In rare cases patients may experience more severe systemic reactions immediately following injection, including:
    • Hives
    • Swelling beyond injection site
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Wheezing
  • Injections must be administered in physician’s office with monitoring of patient reaction for at least 30 minutes after injection.

Effectiveness

  • Vast majority of patients report that allergy injections make them feel better, leading to improved tolerance to allergen exposure.
  • Patients usually experience fewer problems with respiratory allergies affecting lungs, eyes and nose, making asthma and certain allergies more easily controlled with less medication.
  • Improvement after several months of injections is common, with maximum effectiveness occurring within one to two years of treatment.
  • This therapy often decreases chances of children with hay fever developing asthma or helps them “outgrow” asthma if already present.
  • For most children and adults, allergy symptoms don’t return for long after allergy injections have been stopped.