Are allergy shots worth the money?

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Study suggests they work and could be effective for older allergy sufferers

Allergy conditions are on the rise, especially among aging Baby Boomers. An alternative to moving to Arizona is to get regular allergy shots. But is it worth the money?

The injections can be expensive. Some estimates place the cost at between $720 and $1,800 per year. So, if you're going to pay for this therapy, it had better provide results.

A new study suggests allergy shots reduced symptoms by 55% after three years of therapy, and decreased the amount of medication needed for relief of symptoms by 64%.

The conclusions were reached after testing 60 people suffering from hay fever, and who were between the ages of 65 and 75. The subjects were divided into two groups.

The first group received allergy shots for three years while the second group received a placebo.

Challenges for older allergy sufferers

“Older people who suffer from hay fever may have health challenges that younger people do not,” allergist Ira Finegold, MD, said in a release. “Hay fever is often ignored in older patients as a less significant health problem because of diseases such as asthma, coronary heart disease, depression and high blood pressure. Also, some baby boomers might not realize they have allergies, and their physicians might not suggest allergy shots. The research indicated that allergy shots were extremely effective for this group.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, every time you receive an allergy shot the injection contains a tiny amount of the specific substance or substances triggering your allergic reactions. The shots contain just enough of these allergens to stimulate your immune system but not enough to cause a full-blown allergic reaction.

Gradually you get larger doses of the allergens until your system becomes desensitized and builds up a tolerance, causing symptoms to diminish over time.

Often overlooked

The researchers say older patients often get overlooked in the treatment of allergies, but the condition is widespread in people over 65.

“It’s important that allergy treatment methods commonly used in young people are also investigated for use in older patients,” said allergist Gailen Marshall, Editor-in-Chief, Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. “More and more allergists are expanding the age limit for allergy shots as the baby boomer generation enters their senior years.”

Marshall says there has never been any doubt about the effectiveness of allergy shots for both adults and children, but there hasn’t been much research until now in older patients.

The study concludes that an aging immune system doesn’t significantly influence the effectiveness of immunotherapy.

You'll find more information about allergy shots and a tool to locate a local allergist here.

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