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What is Immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy may be the closest thing we have to a cure for allergies. Immunotherapy, often referred to as desensitization, is a well-established treatment for certain allergies. It involves the administration of gradually increasing doses of allergen extracts over a period of time, given to patients by injection or drops/tablets under the tongue.

Allergies develops when the immune system makes IgE antibodies to ‘fight off’ a substance (allergen) that wouldn’t normally bother us, such as pollen, animal dander, house dust mites, mold, foods or the venom of bees or wasps. Immunotherapy is an attempt to modify the immune system so that it no longer reacts to allergens as a threat.

By giving the patient increasing doses of the allergen at regular intervals (starting with a very small dose) in a carefully controlled way, it is possible to teach the immune system to tolerate the allergen and not ‘fight’ it. If successful, immunotherapy causes the production of ‘regulatory’ immune cells, which stop the production of IgE and result in tolerance to the allergen.

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