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Allergy Sufferers Give Themselves Shots At Home

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ATLANTA, Ga. -

Kelsi Swenson has had seasonal allergies for years. But when she moved from Boston to Atlanta in 2013, she says, they hit her like a freight train. Swenson says, “I had to take a few days off from work. I thought I had Mono. I thought I might've had the flu."

A skin-test showed the 23-year was allergic to tree pollen, molds and a lot of other things. So, Dr. Kingsley Chin of Piedmont Ear Nose and Throat and Related Allergy recommended allergy shots, with a twist. If Kelsi went through 3 months of training in his office, she could give herself the shots, right at home.

She was a little hesitant. Swenson says, "When I went to the first training session, I was terrified. But they did a really good job of making me feel really comfortable and informed me of everything I needed to know."

But, while “do-it-yourself” allergy shots may be a lot more convenient, Peachtree Allergy and Asthma Clinic's Dr. Carol Wiggins says they're not safe. The reason? She says you're being injected with the very substances to which you're allergic, and that can trigger a severe, even life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis.

If you're alone, with no one trained to help you, Dr. Wiggins says your epinephrine injector may not be enough to stop the reaction.

Dr. Wiggins says "Occasionally, we have reactions here in the office that do not respond to a single dose of epinephrine, and occasionally intravenous medications, and oxygen may need to be administered."

Dr. Chin says training is critical. He says, “One of our requirements for doing it at home is an adult must be present. The adult must be trained on how to give life-resuscitating issues, like epinephrine. Or, (to) call 911." Dr. Chin feels that with training, Kelsi is just as safe injecting herself at home as she would be in a doctor's office. If patients live alone, he says, they ca inject themselves at work. Chin says, “They just need to tell their colleague, "I'm going to the bathroom, I'm giving myself an injection. Just be around in case there is an issue."

Kelsi Swenson says she’s now comfortable injecting herself at home. And she’s starting to feel a little better, but knows getting relief is a long process.

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) is firmly against at-home allergy immunology. In a 2011 task force report, the nation’s largest group of allergists said it’s critical to have trained physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants administer the shots. The AAAII says allergy immunology should be given only in a medical setting with the appropriate equipment, medication and personnel to respond to an emergency like anaphylaxis.

Last month the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first under-the-tongue allergy immunology treatment. Oralair is for hay fever caused by grass pollens. The first dose has to be given in a health provider’s office. But, after that, the patient can use the treatment at home.

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