Has anyone tried immunotherapy for chronic rhinitis?
August 13, 2010 6:51 AM   Subscribe

Has anyone tried immunotherapy for chronic rhinitis (year-round allergies/nasal congestion)?

How effective was it for you, and does it relieve all or most of your symptoms? Does its effectiveness fade? Do you have to take the shots forever?

I have chronic rhinitis, which basically means I can barely breathe through my nose because I have allergies ALL YEAR ROUND. My doctor at first suggested immunotherapy, but after my skin test results he decided that immunotherapy might not be necessary. But my allergies are killing me! The sprays help, but they're losing their effectiveness, and I was wondering if anyone has had experience with this form of treatment?

The skin test showed that I have a mild allergy to milk (which I've cut out, and has helped a bit), corn, and I believe animal dander (I have pets, although when I lived away from home I didn't notice a difference).
posted by metakiwi to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I had very severe allergies (not rhinitis -- the symptoms were mostly in my eyes, which let me tell you, is no picnic) that completely disappeared after I cut grains, legumes, corn, and dairy out of my diet. Try it for a month and see what happens.
posted by telegraph at 6:56 AM on August 13, 2010

I had year-round rhinitis and received allergy shots (several times per week to start, later down to once a week) for over a year, and it had no effect on my allergies.

I live in a tropical climate, and the only time I ever got relief was when I lived in a high-altitude area.
posted by eas98 at 6:57 AM on August 13, 2010

You don't mention if you're taking an allergy medication, specifically one designed to stop the histamine reaction and to relieve the congestion. I have year-round allergies, too (dust, trees, pollen, ragweed, animal dander, etc.), and did immunotherapy for about three years. It worked a charm for me, but I'm also on three different medications for allergies: claritin (generic) once a day, NasaCort once a day, and Advair (for asthma related to allergies). Without the shots but still on meds, I was miserable every day. Headaches, sinus infections, tiredness; I was not happy. After the shots, I feel like a different person. I still need the meds but it's like a fog was lifted from my brain. I sleep better, I don't have sinus infections anymore, the headaches are gone, and I can live my life.

I may or may not need to go back for more immunotherapy. We're taking as a wait-and-see thing. So far I'm okay and it's been over a year since I had my last shot. I wouldn't care if I had to continue for the rest of my life, though; the difference in the quality of my life is that huge.
posted by cooker girl at 6:57 AM on August 13, 2010

Yes, I had allergy shots for several years and they made a dramatic difference even though I not longer have the shots monthly. Before the shots my rhinitis really affected my sleeping, after the shots I almost never have problems like that.

Like telegraph, I also eventually adopted a grain/dairy free diet (paleo diet), which also made some difference, but allergy shots made the most dramatic difference. Allergy shots made my life a million times better, the diet allowed me to go off allergy meds entirely.

Another thing I would try would be a good(refrigerated) commercial probiotic supplement. I take one and it's definitely made things even better!
posted by melissam at 7:06 AM on August 13, 2010

Response by poster: I take Astepro, and Flonase (Fluticasone?), I do the Netipot which is helpful but not a cure all. I'm planning to do another skin test to see if I'm allergic to more foods. But as for now I'm more interested in other people's interest in people's experience with immunotherapy.
posted by metakiwi at 7:20 AM on August 13, 2010

My husband was totally miserable, chronic sinus infections, the whole nine yards. He saw an Ear Nose & Throat doctor who took one look and recommended immunotherapy. While he did ultimately end up getting sinus surgery (lots of scarring from years of bad sinus infections) the immunotherapy did help (and continues to do so). His allergies are dust, mold, and pollen (but a lot more to dust than anything else). Another friend of ours has massively awful seasonal allergies, culminating in OAS, and she is also on immunotherapy. It's made a difference for her. Note, it's not instantaneous - if the fall is worse for you, for example, get started now, and you'll probably see some improvement, but spring will be the real test.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:28 AM on August 13, 2010

I did a multi-year course of allergy shots and am very satisified with my results, as my allergy symptoms have virtually disappeared, and therefore my asthma has gone away, too. I live in a metro area with the second worst air quality in the US*, plus allergy testing revealed that I am allergic to almost every plant and mold in the area. I am off the allergy and asthma meds and do not have anything but high enthusiasm for allergy shots.

* The allergy shots cannot build your immunity against stuff like smog, but smog and the weather patterns that contribute to it (heat, moisture and fog) contribute to pollen hanging out in the air. So bad air quality still has an effect on allergies, in my experience.

I would only trust allergy shots to an allergist. I had a wonderful allergist/pulmonologist treat me. I just felt like since that was the scope of the practice, the doctors there had a better handle on allergy shots than say a primary care physician or even an ENT.

You don't mention if you smoke, but if you do, please make plans to quit--and follow through on it.
posted by FergieBelle at 8:36 AM on August 13, 2010

Metakiwi -- I want to be really clear about why I cut those foods out of my diet, since I think you may have missed the point (skin tests to check for more allergies). I'm pretty sure that I'm not allergic to wheat; however, the lectins in wheat irritate my gut, and a constant state of inflammation in the body makes the immune system more sensitive and more likely to respond to allergens.

Anecdotally, the rest of my family all use immunotherapy and saw decent results. Not enough to come off of medication completely, but enough that they felt the weekly doctor visits were worth it.
posted by telegraph at 9:07 AM on August 13, 2010

I was also a chronic rhinitis sufferer. My allergies are trees, weeds, and the like—not the same as yours. I'm about midway through a multi-year shot regimen. I used to be miserable even on the strongest prescription medication; spending any amount of time outside in any season but winter would inevitably leave me sneezy, stuffy, runny, and miserable.

As of now, I still take Allegra, but no longer need decongestants. I can skip a day of Allegra and probably not notice anything. Very rarely (1-2 times per year) my eyes itch. But I can now spend all kinds of time outside with no allergy consequences whatsoever.

I remember when I first went in for the exam, they gave me the pin test (putting little pins all over your back to see what you're allergic to) and the resulting hives were so pronounced that the nurses and doctors called each other in to gape at my freakishness.

They then told me there was no guarantee the shot regimen would work for me, but that my symptoms impacted my life enough that I should probably give it a try, and I agreed.

So, FWIW, this extreme allergy sufferer, while not cured, is pleased enough with the improvement to absolutely consider it worthwhile. I didn't even hesitate about continuing the shots when they started making me pay a $10 co-pay.
posted by AugieAugustus at 12:25 PM on August 13, 2010

I also suffered from rhinitis and had the shots. The shots lasted for years for me but the results have been very good. Your results may vary, and it might be worth getting a second opinion to verify your doctor's opinion that shots won't help.
posted by chairface at 1:55 PM on August 13, 2010

I did the allergy shots for 5+ years. Didn't work on me.

I take Allegra daily, wear a dust mask when working outside (yardwork, etc.), shower after being outside before bed, and use a Neti Pot when my sinuses begin to act up a bit.

For the most part things are under control, except one thing, cats. I can literally feel if cats are in a house when I walk in. After a couple of hours, I begin to get a serious reaction and need to double up on medication. Heaven help me if I touch a cat and then touch my face. My eyes start to swell shut.

Good luck.
posted by Argyle at 3:24 PM on August 13, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for your wonderful answers! Sorry that I left out some important information but here are some further details:
1) I don't smoke, and can't be around it.
2) I live in NYC

@Telegraph: Thank you for your clarification. I'm curious if you had an allergy test to see if you were allergic to these foods, or you just experimented to see its effects?

I considered cutting out wheat...but I really love bread lol, and cutting out milk was easy but I miss certain foods... For the most part I don't really notice any problems with wheat, but milk has an immediate noticeable effect on my congestion
posted by metakiwi at 10:08 PM on August 13, 2010

Response by poster: Also, I was wondering since my allergy test (done by ENT), only showed mild allergies to a few things does this disqualify me from receiving immunotherapy? I know the test only showed mild allergies, but the effect it has on me is, in my opinion, serious, and I really want to get my allergies in control.

Are there other things that improved your allergy symptoms aside from the Neti pot, and diet changes?
posted by metakiwi at 10:11 PM on August 13, 2010

What you are tested for depends on where you live (here people are tested for a load of grass/tree/plant pollens b/c it's pollen effing central). If I were you I would visit an allergist to get a new allergy test done. Be sure to describe your symptoms, when they are the worst, what triggers you, which, according to what my husband and I discovered, will help them know that they should test more of this or less of that. Good luck.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:15 AM on August 17, 2010

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