If nothing seems to give you relief from your severe allergy symptoms and you're desperate for something that could help you to feel better, you may want to talk to your doctor about getting allergen immunotherapy, which is more commonly known as allergy shots.

Many allergists feel that allergy shots can be a very effective way to build up your resistance to your biggest allergens in an attempt head off your reaction before it even starts.

The Mechanics

When you get an allergy shot, your doctor is actually injecting tiny amounts of the substances to which you are allergic. This can include things like pollen, dust, mold, ragweed and pet dander. These shots are repeated frequently, gradually increasing the amounts of the allergens included. This allows you to build up a tolerance to these items by forming antibodies. These antibodies are what actually block your body's reaction to the allergens to eliminate your symptoms.

Two-Phase Approach

Allergy shots are usually given in two phases. The first phase allows you to build up your resistance to your allergens. This typically requires receiving shots weekly (or in some cases even twice a week), and can continue anywhere from several months on up to six months or even more.

Once you work up to the most effective dose of allergens, you can then begin the maintenance phase, which continues can be stretched out over longer intervals, with most people typically receiving them once to twice a month. How long you need to continue to receive a maintenance dose will depend on your personal situation but could be for as long as five years.

Who is a Good Candidate?

People with serious seasonal and indoor allergies are often good candidates for immunotherapy, but only your doctor can tell you for sure if this is the best option for you. Some of the factors he or she will consider include how often your allergies occur, how severe they are, whether medication controls the symptoms adequately and whether you will be able to make the time commitment required for immunotherapy treatment.

It is worth noting that your age can also make a difference in deciding if allergy shots are a good route for you to take. Children under five are usually considered too young for this treatment approach, while older adults with other serious health concerns may be too high risk.

The Effectiveness

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunotherapy, allergy shots can make a significant difference in helping to prevent allergies or at least minimize symptoms for many participants. Further, children seem to respond especially well to them.

If you decide to try this approach, the benefit is that it can not only control your body's response to certain allergens, but it can also help you to avoid experiencing allergic asthma as well. In some people, allergies can go into remission as a result of this treatment method, and in the best case scenario, the benefits will last even after maintenance has stopped.