Top Doctors: Update on allergy shots

Flowers bloom on a tree in Akron, N.Y. Flowers bloom on a tree in Akron, N.Y. (May 10, 2011) Photo Credit: AP

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The allergy shot used to be a weekly ritual for countless kids and plenty of adults, too.

These days, though, weekly shots have become less common as medications have become more effective. But allergy shots continue to be appropriate for some people.

Here's what you should know about them.

1. ALLERGY SHOTS TREAT SOME ALLERGIES, BUT NOT ALL

Allergy shots are designed to treat asthma and nasal allergies, and can be used to treat people who are allergic to bee and wasp stings, said Dr. Daniel Mayer, an allergist and clinical immunologist in Smithtown.

On the other hand, said Dr. Paul Lusman, an allergy specialist in Port Jefferson and an attending physician at St. Charles Hospital, "We don't usually give shots for skin problems, and nobody should be taking injections for food allergy." If you're allergic to a food, like peanuts, he said, the best way to prevent problems is to avoid the food.

2. ALLERGY SHOTS ARE DESIGNED TO TREAT MODERATE TO SEVERE SYMPTOMS

The shots work by helping the body's immune system develop tolerance to irritants so it won't overreact when it encounters, say, pet dander or dust mites.

"They're appropriate if your lifestyle is altered enough -- you aren't happy, and you're suffering, even with medication and trying to avoid things like dust mites and pets," Mayer said. With allergy shots, he said, people are "usually able to come off of most, if not all, of their medicines."

3. BE PATIENT

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Allergy shots may get rid of your symptoms for good, but they take time.

Typically, people begin with weekly shots, and then the injections progressively become less frequent, Lusman said. The process takes quite a long time, however. Mayer said that many people don't begin feeling better until six to 12 months after they begin getting the shots.

"It's a big commitment," he said, "but most people get better, and they seem very satisfied." In fact, if you stick with the allergy shots for three to five years, he said, there's a good chance that your symptoms will disappear and not return.

4. ALWAYS GET INJECTIONS AT A DOCTOR'S OFFICE

Allergists typically require that people get their shots at a medical office instead of at home, and "nobody should offer you the possibility of self-injecting," Lusman said.

"You should always have a professional give your injection," he said. "Somebody should be available to manage a reaction. It doesn't matter how long you've been on injections; the possibility of reactions is always there. You could have anything from localized swelling to generalized hives to breathing problems, shock and death."

Lusman said it's extremely rare for someone to die from allergy shots. But people sometimes have reactions like redness, swelling and itching, he said.

5. IF YOU HAVE SEVERE ASTHMA, AN EXPENSIVE SHOT IS AVAILABLE

An injected medication known as omalizumab (Xolair) is available for asthma patients, Lusman said. "When it works, it is beyond wonderful," he said, but the process of giving injections is complicated. And the drug is extremely expensive, at about $1,800 or more for each of the one or two doses required each month, he said. Insurers may pay for it, he said, but only in cases of severe asthma.

 

Allergists and immunologists

 

This is the 11th installment of a 26-week series in which Newsday presents Castle Connolly's list of top Long Island doctors.

@Newsday

Dr. Mitchell Boxer

2001 Marcus Ave.

Lake Success

516-482-0910

Dr. Russell Cancellieri

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596 Hampton Rd.

Southampton

631-283-3300

Dr. Robert Corriel

1129 Northern Blvd.

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Manhasset

516-365-6077

Dr. Bruce Edwards

700 Old Country Rd.

Plainview

516-933-1125

Dr. Luz Fonacier

120 Mineola Blvd.

Mineola

516-663-2097

Dr. Marianne Frieri

566 Broadway

Massapequa

516-541-6262

Dr. Stanley Goldstein

242 Merrick Rd.

Rockville Centre

516-536-7336

Dr. Louis Guida Jr.

Bay Shore Allergy &

Asthma Specialty Practice

649 Montauk Hwy.

West Bay Shore

631-665-2700

Dr. Paul Lang

One Hollow Lane

New Hyde Park

516-365-6666

Dr. Paul Lusman

120 North Country Rd.

Port Jefferson

631-928-4990

Dr. Sharon Markovics

1129 Northern Blvd.

Manhasset

516-365-6077

Dr. Daniel Mayer

263 E. Main St.

Smithtown

631-366-5252

Dr. Brian Novick

30 Newbridge Rd.

East Meadow

516-731-5740

Dr. Michael Steven Richheimer

1855 Union Blvd.

Bay Shore

631-665-6363

724 Park Ave. E.

Long Beach

516-889-1110

Dr. Steven Satnick

900 Main St.

Holbrook

631-588-4486

Dr. Marc Sicklick

123 Grove Ave.

Cedarhurst

516-569-5550

Dr. Gary Weinstock

310 E. Shore Rd.

Great Neck

516-487-1073

 

How they were picked

 

Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. is a health care research and information company founded in 1991 by a former medical college board chairman and president to help guide consumers to America's top doctors and hospitals. Castle Connolly's established survey and research process, under the direction of a doctor, involves tens of thousands of doctors and the medical leadership of leading hospitals.

Castle Connolly's team of researchers follows a rigorous screening process to select doctors on national and regional levels. Using mail and telephone surveys, and electronic ballots, they ask physicians and the leadership of top hospitals to identify exceptional doctors. Careful screening of doctors' educational and professional experience is essential to the committee. Not every good physician makes the list. Rather, the list is a way for patients to get started on their search for the best medical professional. Newsday is not part of the selection process.

Doctors do not and cannot pay to be selected and profiled as Castle Connolly Top Doctors.

 

To see the whole list . . .

 

Who else is on the list of Top Doctors? More than 6,000 listings are in the New York Metro Area edition of "Top Doctors," published by Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. The softcover list price is $34.95. For more information, go to castleconnolly.com, or call 800-399-DOCS.

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