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Resurfaced Allergies
November 2002

Q. Until age 12, living in a rural area meant an annual attack of poison ivy. I was especially allergic to it and would often miss school due to my eyes swelling shut. At age 10 my mother found out about a possible cure, a 3 year series of shots (3 each year). Each year the allergic reactions lessened until age 12 when they stopped all tegether. I could roll in the stuff unaffected. That is until age 30 (last year) when after an outing in the woods I woke the next day with exactly the same allergic reactions I had suffered as a child. Same thing this year! First, what happened? And second should I consider the treatment again this late in life?

A. It is likely that you had desensitization shots as a child, commonly called allergy shots. These shots expose you to a very small, dilute amount of the substance you are allergic to, allowing the body to slowly build antibodies which will then block the severe reaction you experienced.

As an adult, your immunity may simply have worn off. The shots can be costly and time-consuming, and do not always work as effectively as you describe. The best idea of course is to avoid the allergy-producing substance if possible, and to have medication available if exposed. This usually consists of anti-histamines or prednisone (prescription required). Consult your doctor as to the best treatment in your case.

http://www.aad.org/pamphlets/PoisonIvy.html

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000027.htm

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