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What Are the Pros and Cons of Immunotherapy for Asthma?

Nick Mann
By Nick Mann
Updated May 17, 2024
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Immunotherapy for asthma is a form of treatment that involves a series of injections. Usually this form of medication is reserved for individuals with serious asthma symptoms, where other treatments have failed. Like most other treatments, immunotherapy for asthma comes with its pros and cons. Benefits include long term relief from asthma attacks, reduced inflammation and overall improved breathing. Disadvantages include the relatively high costs, swelling from injections and occasional anaphylactic shock in certain patients.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of immunotherapy for asthma is the long term relief that it provides. Instead of only treating allergic symptoms, injections treat the entire immune system, which is helpful in the long run. As opposed to other asthma treatments like inhalers, injections typically provide relief for two weeks to a month. As a result, individuals can go about their daily lives without constantly worrying about asthma symptoms.

Reduced inflammation is another benefit of injections. Immunotherapy works to desensitize the body's reaction to antigens, which cause allergies and inflammation. Once the body's immune system gets adjusted to the change, there is a significant decrease in swelling and inflammation. In turn, substantial relief from allergies is likely to occur.

An additional advantage is the overall improved breathing that immunotherapy provides for patients. Desensitizing the immune system to antigens ultimately helps to prevent inflammation in the nasal passages, allowing the air clear passage. Once there is a clear passage, the nose can function more efficiently which makes breathing dramatically easier.

Although immunotherapy for asthma is often helpful, there are three main problems that some patients experience. A common issue for many people is simply the costs involved with treatment. Injections are typically given over a period of time, depending upon the severity of allergies. As a result, costs tend to accrue over time. When compared to other forms of treatment, immunotherapy is definitely one of the more expensive options.

Another issue is the swelling that sometimes develops around the injection area. While only around 20 percent of patients are affected, it is a problem that causes mild discomfort. In some instances, the skin irritation can actually lead to further medical problems that will require treatment.

One more concern is that certain patients can go into anaphylactic shock. If this occurs, patients may experience respiratory problems, hives or even a loss of consciousness. In most cases, it's individuals with previous heart problems that are most at risk. While anaphylactic shock is very rare, it still remains a pervasive side effect of immunotherapy for asthma.

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