When can you stop your bee allergy shots? That is a question that is posed to allergy doctors on a regular basis for those who are getting venom immunotherapy (VIT). Stings by insects can cause systemic allergic reactions due to allergy antibodies to the venom injected. Some of these reactions can be severe and fatal. Bee allergy shots or venom immunotherapy is effective in desensitizing to those who are allergic. The bee allergy shots are begun weekly until a maintenance is reached and then it is given monthly.
When bee allergy shots were first introduced, it was initially thought that it had be given lifelong. However some studies have shown that they can be stopped and the immunity can last for a long time. Today it is suggested that bee allergy shots be given for a minimum of 3 to 5 years. Patients were studied who were getting the bee allergy shots and were later discontinued for various reasons, those who continued their shots for 3 to 5 years had less systemic reactions when they were stung again.
There are some conditions where patients have a higher chance of a systemic reaction after stopping bee allergy shots and for those patients, one should consult with their allergy doctor whether or not they should continue their shots for greater than 5 years. Those conditions are:
-cardiac and pulmonary disease
-mast cell disorders
-severe reactions before venom immunotherapy and those that have severe reactions during allergy testing
-systemic allergy reactions to bee allergy shots during the treatment phase
-patients at a high risk who get stung repeatedly (bee keepers and their family members)
If bee allergy shots are stopped, your allergy specialist should discuss several things with you.
The risk of a serious reaction is not zero and it may be as high as 10%.
Because of the residual risk, the patient should continue to carry an epinephrine autoinjector and take measures to avoid bee stings.
It is possible to react to one sting and not another, so a non-eventful sting does not mean a patient is “cured” for life of his/her allergy.
Any serious allergic reaction after stopping bee allergy shots should be reported to the allergy specialist so the patient’s situation can be re-evaluated.