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Oklahoma experts explain how allergy shots work

For Oklahomans who suffer from allergies, allergy shot therapy, which have been found to be at least somewhat effective in a majority of patients, may provide relief.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: May 10, 2014 at 12:20 am •  Published: May 11, 2014

Pam Angle sits at her desk, next to several bottles full of things that would make a fair number of Oklahomans sneeze.

Extracts of mountain cedar, elm, oak, ragweed, Johnson grass and Bermuda grass pollens sit nearby.

After 30 years of filling allergy shots, Angle knows — the list of what people might need in their allergy shots is long.

“There are so many things in Oklahoma that grow here that people are allergic to,” said Angle, head filler at the Oklahoma Allergy and Asthma Clinic extract lab.

Each week, Angle and the other lab technicians fill about 1,000 orders for allergy shots, a therapy that involves injecting a small amount of an allergen into a person’s body on a regular basis over the course of three to five years in an attempt to build that person’s immunity to allergens, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Oklahoma City’s environment is not a friend to allergy sufferers, with the city ranking No. 4 on the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s "Most Challenging Places to Live with Spring Allergies” list.

Consistent exposure

Dr. Dean Atkinson, an allergist at the Oklahoma Allergy & Asthma Clinic, said allergy shots give patients consistent exposure to allergens.

An allergy sufferer generally doesn’t get enough consistent exposure in the environment to develop resistance as quickly as they would with allergy shots, he said.

That’s if they stick with the shots.

“In the end, there’s probably close to 50 percent that will start that will finish up that three to five years,” Atkinson said. “You’ve got to keep going.”

Atkinson said the reason the treatment takes as long as it does is because of the risk associated with injecting allergens into a person’s system.

“If we could predict how much people would react, it would be easy, because then you could start them higher or go faster, but what happens is many people, because their body is not used to the dosing, they will actually react to the shots,” he said.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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