Adverse reactions include, but are not limited to urticaria; itching; edema of extremities; respiratory wheezing or asthma; dyspnea; cyanosis; tachycardia; lacrimation; marked perspiration; flushing of face, neck or upper chest; mild persistent clearing of throat; hacking cough or persistent sneezing.
A mild burning immediately after injection is expected; this usually subsides in 10-20 seconds. Prolonged pain or pain radiating up arm is usually the result of intramuscular injection, making this injection route undesirable. Subcutaneous injection is the recommended route.
Larger local reactions are not only uncomfortable, but indicate the possibility of a severe systemic reaction if dosage is increased. In such cases dosage should be reduced to the last level not causing reaction and maintained for two or three treatments before cautiously increasing.
Systemic reactions range from mild exaggeration of patient’s allergic symptoms to anaphylactic reactions.14 Very sensitive patients may show a rapid response. It cannot be overemphasized that, under certain unpredictable combinations of circumstances, anaphylactic shock is always a possibility. Fatalities are rare but can occur.5 Other possible systemic reaction symptoms are fainting, pallor, bradycardia, hypotension, angioedema, cough, wheezing, conjunctivitis, rhinitis,and urticaria.13, 14
Careful attention to dosage and administration limit such reactions. Allergenic extracts are highly potent to sensitive individuals and OVERDOSE could result in anaphylactic symptoms. Therefore, it is imperative that physicians administering allergenic extracts understand and prepare for treatment of severe reactions. Refer to “OVERDOSAGE” section.
If a systemic or anaphylactic reaction does occur, apply tourniquet above the site of allergenic extract injection and inject intramuscularly or subcutaneously 0.3 to 0.5 ml of 1:1000 Epinephrine-hydrochloride into the opposite arm or gluteal area. Repeat dose in 5-10 minutes if necessary. Loosen tourniquet briefly at 5 minute intervals to prevent circulatory impairment. Discontinue use of the tourniquet after ½ hour.
Symptoms of progressive anaphylaxis include airway obstruction and/or vascular collapse. After administration of epinephrine, profound shock and vasomotor collapse should be treated with intravenous fluids and possibly vasoactive drugs. Monitor airways for obstruction. Oxygen should be given by mask if indicated.
Patients who have been taking beta-blockers may be unresponsive to epinephrine. Epinephrine or beta-adrenergic drugs (Alupent) may be ineffective. These drugs should be administered even though a beta-blocker may have been taken. The following treatment will be effective whether or not patient is taking a beta-blocker: Aminophylline IV, slow push or drip, Atrovent (Ipratropium bromide) Inhaler, 3 inhalations repeated, Atropine, 0.4 mg/ml, 0.75 to 1.5 ml IM or IV, Solu-Cortef, 100-200 mg IM or IV, Solu-Medrol, 125 mg IM or IV, Glucagon, 0.5-1 mg IM or IV, Benadryl, 50 mg IM or IV, Cimetidine, 300 mg IM or IV, Oxygen via ambu bag.
Refer to “STORAGE” section for proper storage condition for allergenic extract. Parenteral drug products should be inspected visually for particulate matter and discoloration prior to administration, whenever solution and container permit. Some allergenic extracts naturally precipitate.
Physicians undertaking immunotherapy should be concerned with patient’s degree of sensitivity. The initial dilution of allergenic extract, starting dose, and progression of dosage must be carefully determined on the basis of the patient’s history and results of skin tests. Strongly positive skin tests may be risk factors for systemic reactions. Less aggressive immunotherapy schedules may be indicated for such patients.
Precaution is necessary when using extract mixture for skin testing. The diluting effect of individual components within a mixture may cause false negative reactions. Patients extremely sensitive to a common allergen in several components of a mixture may be more likely to experience a systemic reaction than when skin tested individually for each component.9
PRICK-PUNCTURE TESTING: To identify highly sensitive individuals and as a safety precaution, it is recommended that a prick-puncture test using a drop of the extract concentrate be performed prior to initiating very dilute intradermal testing. Prick-puncture testing is performed by placing a drop of extract concentrate on the skin and puncturing the skin through the drop with a small needle such as a bifurcated vaccinating needle. The most satisfactory sites on the back for skin testing are from the posterior axillary fold to 2.5 cm from the spinal column, and from the top of the scapula to the lower rib margins. The best areas on the arms are the volar surfaces from the axilla to 2.5 or 5 cm above the wrist, skipping the anticubital space. A positive reaction is approximately 10-15 mm erythema with 2.5 mm wheal. Smaller, less conclusive reactions may be considered positive in conjunction with a definitive history of symptoms on exposure to the allergen. The more sensitive the patient the higher the probability that he/she will have symptoms related to the exposure of the offending allergen. Hence, the importance of a good patient history. Less sensitive individuals can be tested intradermally with an appropriately diluted extract.
A positive control using histamine phosphate identifies patients whose skin may not react due to medications, metabolic or other reasons. A negative control (50% glycerine for prick-puncture testing) would exclude false-positive reactions due to ingredients in diluent or patients who have dermatographism.
SINGLE DILUTION INTRADERMAL TESTING: The surface of the upper and lower arm is the usual location for skin testing. It is important that a new, sterile, disposable syringe and needle be used for each extract tested. Intracutaneous test dilutions, five-fold or ten-fold, may be prepared from stock concentrate using physiologic saline as a diluent. (1) Start testing with the most dilute allergenic extract concentration. (2) A volume of 0.02-0.05 ml should be injected slowly into the superficial skin layers making a small bleb (superficial wheal). (3) For patients without a history of extreme sensitivity, or a negative or weakly reactive prick-puncture test, the initial dilution for skin testing should be a dilution at least 1:12,500 w/v. This initial dilution can be prepared by diluting 1:20 to 1:50 w/v (2%-5%) extracts five-fold to 5-4 or 1:10 w/v (10%) extracts to 5-5. See “Serial Dilutions Titration Test Dilutions” chart on the next page. Dilute 1:10 w/v (10%) extracts to 10-3 if using ten-fold dilutions. (4) Sensitive patients with a positive prick-puncture test require a further dilution to at least 1:312,500 w/v. This dilution can be prepared by diluting 1:20 to 1:50 w/v (2% — 5%) extracts to 5-6 or 1:10 w/v (10%) extracts to 5-7 (five-fold dilutions). Ten-fold dilution to 10-6 of a 1:10 w/v (10%) extract would be a safe starting dilution. Size of reactions are quantitated based on size of wheal and erythema. For interpretation of skin reactions, refer to chart below. If after 20 minutes no skin reaction is observed, continue testing using increasing increments of the concentration until a reaction of 5-10 mm wheal and 11-30 mm erythema is obtained, or a concentration of 5-2 or 10-1 has been tested. A negative control, 50% glycerine diluted with diluent to 5-2 (1:25) or 10-1 (1:10) dilution and a positive control of histamine phosphate, should be tested and included in interpretation of skin reactions.1, 13
|GRADE||mm ERYTHEMA||mm WHEAL|
|0||less than 5||less than 5|
|3+||31-40||10-15 or with pseudopods|
|4+||greater than 40||greater than 15 or with many pseudopods|
INTRADERMAL TESTING-SKIN ENDPOINT TITRATION: The allergenic extracts to which the patient is sensitive, the patient’s degree of sensitivity and the dose of allergen to be used in immunotherapy can be determined through the use of intracutaneous skin tests involving progressive five-fold dilutions of allergenic extracts. Intracutaneously inject 0.01 to 0.02 ml of the test allergen to form a 4 mm diameter superficial skin wheal. For patients demonstrating a negative or weakly reactive prick-puncture skin test, an initial screening dilution of 1:12,500 w/v is safe. For patients demonstrating a positive prick-puncture skin test, an initial screening dilution of 1:312,500 w/v is safe. (See “Serial Dilution Titration Test Dilutions” chart below.) When a sequence of five-fold or ten-fold dilutions of an allergen are injected, the endpoint is determined by noting the dilution that first produces a wheal and erythema (15 minutes after injection) that is 2 mm larger than wheals with erythema produced by weaker, non-reacting dilutions (5 mm negative wheal). The endpoint dilution is used as a starting dose concentration for immunotherapy. An endpoint dose of 0.15 ml is a safe initial dose to be followed by escalation to the optimal maximum tolerated dose for each individual.
IMMUNOTHERAPY: If the first injection of the initial dilution of extract is tolerated without significant local reaction, increasing doses by 5-20% increments of that dilution may be administered. The rate of increase in dosage in the early stages of treatment with highly diluted extracts is usually more rapid than the rate of increase possible with more concentrated extracts. This schedule is intended only as a guide and must be modified according to the reactivity of the individual patient. Needless to say, the physician must proceed cautiously in the treatment of the highly sensitive patient who develops large local or systemic reactions. 6
Some patients may tolerate larger doses of the allergenic extract depending on patient response.7 Because diluted extract tends to lose activity in storage, the first dose from a more concentrated vial should be the same, or less than, the previous dose.8, 12
Dosages progressively increase according to the tolerance of the patient at intervals of one to seven days until, (1) the patient achieves relief from symptoms, (2) induration at the site of injection is no larger than 50 mm in 36 to 48 hours, (3) a maintenance dose is reached (the largest dose tolerated by the patient that relieves symptoms without undesirable local or systemic reactions). This maintenance dose may be continued at regular intervals perennially. It may be necessary to adjust the progression of dosage downward to avoid local and constitutional reactions.
|Titration Number||Dilution Exponent||Weight / Volume||Allergenic Extract Concentrate|
|1:50 (2%)||1:40 (2 1/2%)||1:33 1/3 (3%)||1:20 (5%)||1:10 (10%)|
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