Immunotherapy must be given under physician’s supervision. Sterile solutions, vials, syringes, etc. must be used. Aseptic technique must be observed in making dilutions from stock concentrates. The usual precautions in administering allergenic extracts are necessary, refer to boxed WARNINGS and “WARNINGS” section. Sterile syringe and needle must be used for each individual patient to prevent transmission of serum hepatitis, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and other infectious agents.
Patient should remain under observation of a nurse, physician, or personnel trained in emergency measures for at least 20 minutes following immunotherapy injection. Patient must be instructed to report any adverse reactions that occur within 24 hours after injection. Possible adverse reactions include unusual swelling and/or tenderness at injection site, rhinorrhea, sneezing, coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, or faintness. Immediate medical attention must be sought for reactions that occur during or after leaving physician’s office.
Animal reproduction studies have not been conducted with allergenic extracts. It is not known whether allergenic extracts cause fetal harm during pregnancy or affect reproductive capacity. A systemic reaction to allergenic extract could cause uterine contractions leading to spontaneous abortion or premature labor. Allergenic extracts should be used during pregnancy only if potential benefit justifies potential risk to fetus.11
It is not known whether allergenic extracts are excreted in human milk. Because many drugs are excreted in human milk, caution should be exercised when allergenic extracts are administered to a nursing woman.
Allergenic extracts have been used routinely in children, and no special safety problems or specific hazards have been found. Children can receive the same dose as adults. Discomfort is minimized by dividing the dose in half and administering injection at two different sites.16, 17
Antihistamines. Antihistamines inhibit the wheal and flare reaction. The inhibitory effect of conventional antihistamines varies from 1 day up to 10 days, according to the drug and patient’s sensitivity. Long acting antihistamines (e.g., astemizole) may inhibit the wheal and flare for up to forty days.1, 2
Imipramines, phenothiazines, and tranquilizers. Tricyclic antidepressants exert a potent and sustained decrease of skin reactions to histamine. This effect may last for a few weeks. Tranquilizers and antiemetic agents of the phenothiazine class have H1 antihistaminic activity and can block skin tests.1
Corticosteroids. Short-term (less than 1 week) administration of corticosteroids at the therapeutic doses used in asthmatic patients does not modify the cutaneous reactivity to histamine, compound 48/80, or allergen. Long-term corticosteroid therapy modifies the skin texture and makes the interpretation of immediate skin tests more difficult.1
Beta-Blockers. Patients receiving beta-blockers may not be responsive to epinephrine or inhaled bronchodilators. The following are commonly prescribed beta-blockers: Levatol, Lopressor, Propanolol Intersol, Propanolol HCL, Blocadren, Propanolol, Inderal-LA, Visken, Corgard, Ipran, Tenormin, Timoptic. Ophthalmic beta-blockers: Betaxolol, Levobunolol, Timolol, Timoptic. Chemicals that are beta-blockers and may be components of other drugs: Acebutolol, Atenolol, Esmolol, Metoprolol, Nadolol, Penbutolol, Pindolol, Propanolol, Timolol, Labetalol, Carteolol.1
Beta-adrenergic agents. Inhaled beta2 agonists in the usual doses used for the treatment of asthma do not usually inhibit allergen-induced skin tests. However, oral terbutaline and parenteral ephedrine were shown to decrease the allergen-induced wheal.1
Specific Immunotherapy. A decreased skin test reactivity has been observed in patients undergoing specific immunotherapy with pollen extracts, grass pollen allergoids, mites, hymenoptera venoms, or in professional beekeepers who are spontaneously desensitized. Finally, it was shown that specific immunotherapy in patients treated with ragweed pollen extract induced a decreased late-phase reaction.1
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.
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