Cochrane Summaries

Trusted evidence. Informed decisions. Better health.

Allergen immunotherapy for the treatment of chronic asthma

Abramson MJ, Puy RM, Weiner JM
Published Online: 
8 August 2010

Injecting allergens under the skin (allergen specific immunotherapy) can reduce asthma and use of medication and improve the sensitivity of the lungs, but with a risk of severe reactions. Asthma attacks can be caused by allergies, pollens, cigarette smoke or air pollution and can be fatal. An allergen is a substance that causes an allergic reaction in a person sensitive to it. Allergen specific immunotherapy involves having injections of increasing amounts of the allergen under the skin. It is also called hyposensitisation or desensitisation, and there is a risk of severe allergic reactions. The review of trials found that immunotherapy can reduce asthma symptoms, the need for medications and the risk of severe asthma attacks after future exposure to the allergen. It is possibly as effective as inhaled steroids. However, there is an increased risk of a lump at the injection site, rash, wheezing, breathlessness and very rarely a fatal allergic reaction.