Ask a Best Doctor: Is It Worth It to Shoot Up on Allergy Meds?

By
Photo: Istockphoto

I never thought I needed allergy shots for my seasonal allergies, but now that I've read allergy season is longer I'm considering it.  Still, I can't help thinking they'll eventually wear off and just make my doctor a lot of money. Are they worth it?  

It's true: Allergy seasons have gotten longer, and they're also increasingly intense. Allergy shots are, it turns out, not exactly medication: They're injections of the allergen you're sensitive to, given in increasing doses until your body gets desensitized. "The body loses its sensitivity to these substances," says Dr. Paul Lindner, director of Stamford Hospital's allergy and asthma center. "So whenever you're exposed to them, you won't react as you did in the past." You'll get increasing doses until you reach a maintenance level, which usually continues for three to five years, at which point your allergist will either stop or reassess you.  

Speaking of which: See an allergist for a general test before you consign yourself to a regimen of shots. You may just have, say, a sinus condition, or something else allergy-ish that's not an allergy, Lindner says. Or a nasal spray like Singulair, Nasonex, or Flonase may do the trick.