Penny, age 35 (allergy shots)
There are people who think allergy shots are a great way to control allergies -- my mom is one of them. She is a nurse and has been taking allergy shots as long as I have. I, on the other hand, have not found them helpful at all. After many years of shots, this is definitely an informed opinion.
I was one of those kids whose nose was always running and whose eyes were always puffy. I went everywhere with my own stash of tissues and eye drops. My mom took me to an allergist for the first time when I was 5. He examined me and recommended removing my tonsils and adenoids. I enjoyed the post-surgery ice cream binge, but going under the knife did not help my allergies. That year, I started taking allergy shots; my mom decided that if shots could help relieve my allergies, they might also help with hers. She started taking shots along with me because she was just as eager for relief from allergies as I was.
For the next several years we both struggled to keep our allergies under control. I dutifully took my shots and my medicine, but my allergies continued to bother me. They gave me headaches and made my nose feel stuffy, but the medicines I took to counteract them made me feel drowsy and spaced out. Even the non-drowsy medicines like Sudafed did not help, because they prevented me from sleeping when I needed to.
As I grew up, mom and I were both still taking shots. When I moved away to go to college, I had to make a change. If I wanted to continue taking allergy shots, I would have to find a new doctor. Not only that, but the doctor would have to be close to campus and able to see me between classes. To be honest, I was not great about keeping to the schedule. I was already a skeptic of allergy shots, and the logistical problems I faced in college did not help me stay with them.
When I left college and started living on my own, I decided to give allergy shots another try. After all, I had not really given them a chance in the previous 4 years. That was when I discovered how hard it could be to get my shots, even with good intentions. For one thing, I could not find a doctor who could see me beyond normal business hours, so I struggled to take off time during my workday. Once I found a doctor I liked, he was so busy that I often had trouble finding an appointment time with him that fit my allergy shot schedule -- the doctor's calendar was already filled from one month to the next! Between the frustrations of scheduling the shots and my perception of their inefficacy, it was not long before I dropped the treatment altogether.
My allergies never got any better, but over the years I found ways to tolerate them. Now that I'm older and have more experience with my allergies, I have discovered some of the tricks that make me feel better. I'm not saying that allergy shots never work, just that they did not work for me. My mom still gets shots and says they work, but sometimes I wonder. It has been almost three decades now, and she still needs to take shots. They must have helped her in some way, because she is just as enthusiastic about them as ever, but I wonder if she anticipated taking them for years and years?
Mom thinks I did not give allergy shots a chance because I was so sporadic with them in college and after. The way I see it, I gave them a chance for 12 years (ages 5 through 18). If that's not long enough to know if they work, what is? I think allergy shots are a great solution if they work for you. I'm just not convinced they worked for me.
Paula J. Busse, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Clinical Immunology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY, Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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