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Do you suffer from allergies? Allergen immunotherapy (desensitisation treatment) is a type of treatment for allergies.
The treatment can be given by injection (subcutaneous immunotherapy), or by drops placed under the tongue (oral immunotherapy). Unlike drug treatment which only suppresses symptoms, immunotherapy treatment works by re-programming the immune system to prevent allergy symptoms from developing in the first place.
The main risk of immunotherapy is that the injections could cause a severe allergic reaction. Although this form of treatment is nowadays regarded as safe, such treatments should only be given in hospital clinics and a wait of one hour after each injection is recommended.
Other forms of allergic rhinitis and allergic asthma, for example due to cat or house dust mite allergy, can be treated in the same way and this form of treatment is backed by an extensive list of successful clinical trials and a World Health Organisation position paper.
Only minor side effects such as mouth itch or slight swelling have been reported. Neither severe reactions nor anaphylaxis have occurred. Even so, it is recommended that the first dose of any treatment course should be given in a specialist clinic, although the treatment can then be safely continued at home.