Pharmacology, the science of drugs, is instructive in determining what’s needed to make an effective medication dose. Simply put, it’s the amount a person should take at one time to produce the desired effect.
A dose can be expressed as:
- the weight of a drug (e.g., 500 mg)
- the volume of a drug solution (e.g., 1 drop)
- the number of the dosage form (e.g., 1 tablet)
- some other measure (e.g., 1 puff or 1,000 allergy units)
Your doctor will consider multiple factors such as age when deciding what medication dose is right for you.
Allergy immunotherapy is a common treatment for environmental allergies. There are two FDA-approved forms of allergy immunotherapy in the United States:
- Subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT), or allergy shots injected in the arm
- Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT), or allergy tablets placed under the tongue and swallowed as it dissolves
Allergy shots are given on a schedule that involves two phases:
(1) build-up phase – generally takes 6 to 12 months
(2) maintenance phase – generally continues 3 to 5 years
Patients usually start feeling improvement once they begin the maintenance phase of injections.
Allergy tablets begin at a maintenance dose. There is no build-up phase. Patients start to see symptom improvement as early as eight weeks after starting allergy tablets.
The dosage amount of an allergy shot is developed by your doctor just for you. It’s not established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Each allergy shot contains a varying amount of specific allergen (what you are allergic to). The mix depends on what other allergens are in the vial and the manufacturer’s extract that’s used. Studies show there is an average of 18 allergens mixed (usually sub-divided into 2-4 vials) in a treatment set. Due to these variables, it is impossible to ensure a correct and effective dose for every patient.
In contrast, the dosage amount for allergy tablets is established by FDA and highly standardized. There is no mixing of the allergen extract. Thus, there is no chance of getting a less effective or incorrect dose. Allergy tablets contain one allergen, but studies show they are effective even for people with multiple allergies. The reason? Treating your most important allergy may decrease your overall allergy load.
Medication doses are an important part of any shared decision conversation you have with your doctor. Dosage amounts should be top of mind in those discussions.
Taking charge of your allergies starts with understanding your treatment options – and the dosage for those treatments.