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Immunotherapy Allergy Shots: My Process, Cost, and Outcome

Most people would look at the photo above and think it’s beautiful. I agree, but mostly I just think about the watery eyes and the sneezing I would do if I was in that field. I’ve struggled with allergies and hay fever my whole life. My son has the same allergies.

Allergy medicine works for me for a little while, but after some use, it no longer decreases symptoms so I have to find something new. I decided it was time to do something a little more long term: Allergy Shots, also known as immunotherapy.

The idea behind allergy shots is that after a series of increasingly potent injections, your immune system can be desensitized from triggers that cause allergic reactions. It takes many months, and even years, but it can offer some real, long-term relief from Allergies.

Recently, my son and I began the process. As usual, I’ve taken detailed notes so I can refer back to them and remember how the process happened.

When I had my PRK Surgery and Recovery fifteen years ago, I wrote a post about the process. There have been over one million views of that post. It turns out, people like to see real hand experience of medical procedures so they know what to expect and plan for in their own process.

In that light, I thought I’d share some allergy shot highlights here for those considering such a thing. Since this is a long process, I’ll update this post over the next few years so share the long term results. Be sure to subscribe to email updates if you’d like to see additions to the post.

Keep in mind: I am not a medical professional. These are simply my observations.

Starting the process

The first step is to meet with the allergist. They will give you an allergy skin test. The usual process is that they draw a graph on your back and needle prick you in each box, and apply a little bit of the irritant to see how your body reacts. Here is a drawing that I found online:

Allergy skin test

I’ll spare you a photo of how my back reacted. It wasn’t pretty. You know those little button candies that you eat off the paper? Imagine that, but all red buttons. My allergies included all sorts of weeds, grasses, pollen, and other things you find on a golf course. (One of my favorite places to be.)

There was also a reaction for dogs, cats, and horses.

For the short term, the doctor prescribed Dymista and OTC zyrtec to control symptoms. He also confirmed that allergy shots would do well for us so we decided to move forward.

Costs for the treatment

Costs can be so difficult to relay since insurance will apply different ways for different people. Many insurance plans will cover part of the treatment, while you may still have co-pays other other fees. For us, it has been about $2800 out of pocket for each of us This includes the cost to see the doctor and have the test ($800), the mixing of the serums ($1200), and a small co-pay for each shot. ($18)

The number of shots depends on how your body reacts so we just pre-paid a good amount.

Getting the Shots

We opted to get shots for all of the plant allergens and also the cat and dog. I don’t spend much time around horses so we decided to skip that one.

The staff at the allergy office will mix a serum specifically to your treatment. There will be one for plants and one for animals. This means you get one shot in each arm every time, and they rotate back and forth. (For us, the plants have been much more reactive so it’s nice to give each arm a break.)

The serums are then separated into five different color bottles, each one more potent.

Immunotherapy step up schedule

Each time you go in for a shot, they use a different bottle and dilution level. The first one one pretty much just water and then over time it’s more and more potent.

For the first four bottles, you just need to have 48 hours between shots. We decided to get through that process as quick as we (and the insurance company) would allow so we went three times a week.

The office makes it easy to come in for shots. No appointments are required. They just give you a schedule and you can come in anytime during those windows. Most of the time it’s not too busy.

For each shot, you need to take an antihistamine one hour before and also bring an epipen. (Which they will help you purchase.)

After the shot, you need to sit at the office for about twenty minutes. They’ll then ask to see your arms to be sure the reaction is not too severe, and then you’re able to go. (Apparently, most bad reactions happen in those first twenty minutes, though our staff said they’ve never actually had to use an epipen on anyone in their time there.)

Some notes on shots:

  • The first four shots are barely noticeable.
  • The fifth shot was the first one from the Silver bottle and it burned a bit. Or as our needle lady likes to say, “It gets spicy.”
  • On the sixth shot, I had a bruise on my arm. I was told it was normal and the needle probably just hit something.
  • Shots 8, 9, and 10 were getting more swollen each time. They were also itching. They decided that from that point on, they would “epicoat” my needle. This helped quite a bit.
  • Shot 12 had such large swelling that I had to repeat it. Luckily, Will was out of town that day so he didn’t get a shot ahead of me and we stayed on track with each other. When the arms swell, your triceps are massive. It doesn’t look terrible…
  • Shot 15 was blue bottle, you could feel that one pretty good. Spicy.
  • Shot 24 was red bottle, which was really starting to have some presence. Up until this shot, we were coming three times a week. With red, you can only take one a week so the process slows down a bit.
  • Shot 29 was pretty hot in both arms. We walked around looking like gorillas for the first ten minutes in the office. It starts to calm down after that, but the arm does stay pretty hot and swollen for the day. Usually, I’ll spend the evening with an ice pack on which helps.
  • Continued in a future update…

You have a bit of a forgiveness window with these red shots. You can take them as often as a week, or as far as two weeks. If you’re outside of that window, you’ll need to repeat the last shot again. (They give you a paper that explains all of this so you can figure out a schedule for yourself.

Now that we are thirty shots in, we’re getting close to the maintenance level. This is the last shot that they’ll step up to and you’ll take it as needed over time. It may start weekly, then monthly, then every few months, etc.

The Outcome

We are five months into the process and almost into the maintenance stage. I can already tell a difference in my reactions.

After shot 29, I asked the doctor if I could stop taking the allergy medicines (except for the single antihistamine one hour before the shot.) He said that would be fine.

I was happy to see that my body is already improving on how it reacts to allergens. It used to be that I was sneezing and stuffy by the third hole of a golf round. (Still worth it.) Now I only feel minor reactions.

Also, my breathing at night has become much better, which helps me sleep better.

All that being said, we’re still in the buildup phase and it’s not expected that real change should be in place. This is a process that can take a while.

I’ll plan to update this post every six months with the current situation.

Is it worth it?

The hardest thing about this process is getting started. It’s hard to commit to something that you know will take at least a year, and probably a few. But it’s alright to commit. Once you get started, it becomes pretty routine.

I’ve struggled with allergies my whole life and it’s not fun. If this was going to be a long term fix, it’s worth it. It’s certainly worth it for my son who still has a lot of life adventures ahead.

The cost is not small, but if it replaces buying allergy medicines for the rest of my life, maybe everything evens out.

If you have any questions, you can reach me from my About page. I’ll add any FAQ to the bottom of this post if I think it would be helpful for others.

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A Personal Journaling Milestone

Over the years, I’ve mentioned journal writing a number of times. Whether it’s keeping a memory journal, improving your spirituality, or just remembering your every day views, keeping a journal can provide many benefits. The never-finished product becomes more and more cherished over the years.

Recently I passed an interesting mark in my own journal keeping. With 7300 journal entries, I have officially documented twenty years worth of days.

My journal entries actually go back 34 years, beginning in 1988. However, I wasn’t a daily writer the whole time. (I haven’t missed a day in over 8 years so I’m doing better lately.)

Having tried many different ways to journal over the years, I’m still big fan of Day One. I’ve enjoyed it so much that I’ve compiled all other journal formats into Day One. Writing from the pre-digital writing have been scanned, added to a backdated entry, and then also transcribed so it’s easy to search. It’s so nice to have everything in the same place.

As I’ve mentioned before, writing in your journal is a great way to reflect and motivate yourself:

There are only so many days in a row that you can write “woke up, went to school/work, watched netflix, leveled up on doodads of destruction (or whatever game), went to sleep.” When you have a daily reflection on your day, and how you’ve spent your time,  you find a desire to do better and to be more. 

Who have I served?

Have I spent my day on things most important?

How has my love grown?

Am I any better now than I was last year. Am I a better dad? A better disciple?

Brian Stucki Ward Conference Talk, 2017

And if you ever find yourself ungrateful, reading your past journal entries can be a great reminder of how blessed you’ve been in your life.

Here is to many more years to come.

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Five Things to Know About This Porch Pirate Video

Boo porch pirates. Do you hug your mother with those arms? (Direct link to video)
  1. We have lived in this house for nearly 8 years and this is our first porch pirate. Exciting morning!
  2. Recently we upgraded all of our house lights to 4000k bulbs. It’s a nice way to brighten up a home. This package contained all of the remaining lights that needed to be upgraded. Bulbs of all random sizes and shapes. This will not be as exciting as he hopes. Maybe he can use the string lights as a belt?
  3. He left his car running the whole time. At current rates, he may lose more on this caper than he gains.
  4. Ironically, this happened at the exact moment that our family was inside having our morning family prayer. A friend suggested that perhaps we stop praying for “someone to see more light in the world.”
  5. I look forward to drone deliveries someday that will drop the package in the backyard.

Joking aside, it’s too bad that people do this sort of thing. The money is one thing, but it also sets back our home projects.

Watching the double drive-by and turn around, it seems to have simply been a crime of circumstance. Perhaps some day he’ll mature and fall into better decisions. In the mean time, I hope that this doesn’t happen to anyone else, especially those already in difficult life circumstances.

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Travel Charger Packs

Now that the kids are traveling on their own more, I’ve put together some travel charger packs for them to grab. It’s a lot easier than unwrapping the cables from the charging stations. (Note: our charging station is in a public part of the house. Remember, kids shouldn’t have their phones in their room overnight. When it comes to good sleep, help them help themselves.)

We made these packs because they are easy to grab and put into a travel bag. We also have a rule in the house: “No borrowing from the travel charger packs.” You need to know that they are always ready to use and not missing any parts.

We all have iPhones and an Apple Watch so here is what we did for our packs.

Zipper mesh bags: We purchased the 4x5in pack of five. It’s only $9 for a five pack of them. The zippers are high quality and the small bag fits everything. I also liked that you can see the contents through the bag. It’s an easy way to check everything is in there.

Anker 40W Dual Fast Charger: This charger is way faster than the charger that came from your phone. It has two ports so you can charger your phone and your watch from just one outlet.

(Note: If you’re still using your original phone charger at home, at least upgrade to the single fast charger from Anker. It will charge your phone so much faster.)

Anker 6ft USB C to Lightning cable: This is a solid cable. It will charge your phone, but will also charge your AirPods. When you’re staying in a hotel, it’s nice to have the 6ft cable because you never know how far the outlets will be from the bed.

Apple Watch Magnetic Fast Charger to USB-C Cable: This is the cable from Apple. Be sure to purchase the USB-C one so it’ll work with the charger listed above. It’s long enough to sit on the nightstand even if the outlet is higher or lower in the wall.

This is what the pack looks like when all zipped up.

We made enough for all of us. Everyone is in charge of bringing and returning their own pack.

It’s been a nice system.

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April 2022 Stockpile

Here are random things to post that don’t deserve their own post:

Sea of Galilee at Sunrise

Up to Jerusalem

Candace and I went to Israel a couple months ago. It was an incredible experience for the mind and the spirit. I especially enjoyed the Galilee area.

This one actually does deserve it’s own post. Many more thoughts and photos from this trip soon.

A new protein bar

Last Summer, I wrote about a selection of protein bars that we enjoy in our house. Since then, they added a new holiday flavor during the winter. It was so good that they have now brought it back as Creamy Crisp and it’s available all year long. It’s way too delicious to be a protein bar.

Watch your finances

I have now been using CoPilot for over a year. Still highly recommended, especially as everything seems to be increasing in cost and budgets need to be a little tighter. My full review is here.

On hesitating in life

“They lose the day in expectation of the night, and the night in fear of the dawn.”

Seneca

A simple service suggestion

Do you have an office at church or work? Purchase a box of these wipes from Amazon and hand them out freely. Put some in your travel bag too. Gift a wipe to anyone working on a messy iPad or squinting through dirty glasses. Even better, offer to do the wipedown for them.

A quick clean will make a phone feel new and the person will appreciate it. It’s a simple service that’s easy to do.

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A Good Book for Family Conversations

At the beginning of the year, Candace bought a book called “52 Modern Manners For Today’s Teens.” It’s a spiral bound book that sits up well on a table or sideboard.

This book is really well done.

Each week over Sunday dinner, we’ll grab the book and read about a new tip. We’ll hold a fun conversation about why it’s important, reference people who are a good example of this trait, and talk about how we’ll try to focus on it in the coming week.

The next week we’ll look back on how we’ve done and then do it all again.

We have always tried to be parents who teach about important things like safely using tech and organizing finances, but this book has helped us introduce little phrases into our family. For instance, this one was early on:

Now we just say “pitch in” and everyone knows what that means.

Another example that was really helpful as school and sports picked up and friends helped us get kids to different activities:

Although there are 52 different “modern manners” in the book, there are no dates or specific schedules to keep. You can start the book anytime.

I would recommend it for any family.

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Use Captions for Travel Photos

I recently returned from a trip to Israel. It is a beautiful country with wonderful people. The time spent there was enlightening and confirming for me and I’ll have plenty more to say about it in the future.

For now, a quick photography tip.

A couple years ago, Apple added the ability to add quick captions to photos. It’s incredibly useful. Sometimes during travel, you take so many photos that they start to blend together. The further you get from your return, the more you forget.

iPhone already adds metadata like time and location, but even then, some more info can be useful. I use “Captions” for this info and I think it would be helpful if more people knew about it.

A quick tutorial:

This tower looks like a hundred other towers in the Old City. As I clean up travel photos, I could easily toss it out. However, if you look closer, you can see the four architectural styles of the ancient builders. Quickly adding that to the Caption space is the perfect place to note that.

  • Choose any photo from your Camera Roll. Once selected, you can swipe up or hit the little blue information icon.
  • Just below the photo, you’ll see an empty space that reads “Add a Caption”
  • Type in your caption and then swipe back down. All done.

As far as I can tell, there are no character limits. These captions are searchable and will sync to all your devices.

Happy travels. Shalom.

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December 2021 Stockpile

Here are random things to post that don’t deserve their own post:

A Certain Number Revisited

A year ago today, I mentioned that “I plan to increase the public writing” on this blog during 2021. I ended up with 24 posts or about two per month. That’s an improvement over 2020 and I plan to keep a somewhat steady pace.

I wish more people would write and post their words on a site they control. (Not just on social media which ends up being temporary and then fades away.)

Remember, you can keep up with new posts by RSS or email.

The other half of the equation

In addition to posting more often, I also read more this year. (That’s another way to improve writing.) The list included:

In fact, everyone in our family has dramatically increased in their reading. We decided to get an individual kindle for each person in the family and that has helped so much. It takes some financial investment, but the reward can be dramatic. It is much easier to stay focused and read on a Kindle. An iPad or iPhone has constant interruptions.

I recently upgraded to the all-new Kindle Paperwhite that was just recently released. It has been wonderful. The kids have the previous Paperwhite (in four different colors to easily differentiate) which is also very nice to read on.

Your Local Epidemiologist

Speaking of reading, I’ve learned a lot from these regular pandemic overviews from Katelyn Jetelina. She takes the recent pandemic info and explains it well, shares how she applies it in her work and home, and makes suggestions for your own decisions.

Just say no to Cake Pops

Cakepops are a dessert of the devil

Speaking of global nightmares, Cake Pops are the worst. I understand that they can look pretty in a picture or a dessert spread, but I just can’t eat them. All I can think of are hands squishing the cake after it has been baked. (As opposed to cookies that are sanely touched before baking.)

It’s taking the best part of cake (the airy texture) and removing it. It doesn’t make any sense.

A goal for next year

Speaking of too much desserts and sugar, I did a lot of walking this year. However, as we came into the last few days of the year, I was just short of reaching five million steps for the year. Sooooo close.

(Left) Nearly 5,000,000 (Right) Sabbath day of rest

As I look past over the year, I realized that Sundays were the numbers killer. Every week looks like the screenshot above. It truly is a day of rest. It’s a good thing the Sabbath can also be a delight.

Next year, I’m definitely hitting five million steps.

I hope you had a great year. Be kind.

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November 2021 Stockpile

Here are random things to post that don’t deserve their own post:

One-Mile Slipper

If you’re looking for something to buy an old man (or a young man who is old at heart), I highly recommend these One Mile Slippers. They are super comfortable and warm, but most importantly they are easy to slide on. The heel backstop is just low enough to slide past without hands, but just big enough to keep the shoes from coming off.

I recommend you buy slightly small because the slippers will get worn in and mold to your foot. I’m usually a 10.5 or 11 and I purchased a Medium size.

(For an extra $12 off, you can use code “THETALKSHOW” when you check out. A podcast I listen to was sponsored by this company a while back and the coupon code still works.)

A Couple More Apps I Like

A while back, I did a thorough review of CoPilot. I still use it and highly recommend it.

Flighty: I use this app to track all my flights, past and future. The free plan offers really accurate information about gates, delays, and arrivals. There is also a subscription if you want even more info.

Deliveries: This is a package tracker app that I have used for many years. It’s really smart to automate any tracking URLs or numbers that you send to it.

Saving Bananas

I only sort of like bananas. The taste is good, the texture is not. When I use a banana in cereal on toast, I only ever eat half of it.

Luckily there is an easy way to keep the other half fresh:

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Add an AirTag to a Harmony Remote

In our house, the remote in the main room is always misplaced. Somehow it is in cushions, below couches, and in the wrong room constantly. We get tired of looking for it.

Today we purchased an AirTag and just used gorilla tape to attach it to the top of the Harmony Remote. That was easy.

Then my youngest said, “That doesn’t seem like a dad way to do things.”

Challenge accepted.

First we took apart the remote to see what was inside. It’s real easy to remove the battery, extract two screws, and separate the top from the bottom. Once inside, we saw that there was a weight in the bottom half. It’s only purpose it to add heft to the remote.

It looked like a perfect cavity to use for the AirTag.

While the width was almost perfect, the depth did not allow for the remote to go back together.

We decided to bore out a hole large enough to let the AirTag have the space it needs.

We started small and used bigger tools until we landed on a sanding wheel. The plastic on the remote was actually quite soft.

We widened it enough for the metal part to poke through. It was a perfect fit.

It also shows a cool Apple logo.

Unfortunately, the sound of a ping was so muffled. Apparently the beeping speaker comes from the white side of the AirTag.

We widened the hole just enough so the white part could have space, but not big enough that it could slip out. Be very careful because the room for error is small.

Once we had the space, we placed the AirTag, put the remote back together, and it all works great.

Now when we replace the remote we just ask Siri to find it for us.

Now that’s a much more “dad way” to do it.