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updated 4/29/2004 8:13:17 PM ET 2004-04-30T00:13:17

Our experienced medical journalist Jennifer Warner took your questions about allergies and asthma to specialists. Here's what she found out.

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Question: If I suffer from year-round allergies, is my best choice allergy shots or medications?

Answer: The ideal candidates for allergy shots (immunotherapy) are people who have tried to avoid allergy triggers and adequate medication, and they're still not doing well enough. The even more ideal candidates are those who have done all of that, plus they have multiple complications from their allergies, such as headache, conjunctivitis (pink eye), sinus and ear infections, and asthma.

Immunotherapy involves gradually building up the body's resistance and tolerance to known allergens by delivering small doses of the allergen, such as pet dander, through periodic injections over the course of three to five years.

But just because you have allergies doesn't mean allergy shots are right for you. It's not a first line of treatment. It's a matter of how long you've had the problem, how severe it is, what complications you have, what type of responses you've had to allergy medications, and your lifestyle.

The frequent shots associated with immunotherapy may cause stinging and burning at the injection site. Other risks include triggering allergic rhinitis or asthma, and the rare worst case scenario is death because you're giving people what they're allergic to. -- Richard G. Gower, MD, clinical associate professor of medicine at the University of Washington and an allergist in private practice at the Rockwood Clinic in Spokane, Washington.

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