Allergies can flare up with the onset of triggers such as dust mites, and pollen from trees or grasses or mold. When this happens, your child can get a runny nose, itchy eyes, or a sore throat. In more severe cases, allergy reactions can upset his or her stomach and make your child feel ill. It is no fun — and it is one of the biggest reasons why kids miss school.
Consult your doctor and come up with an action plan. They may recommend different treatment options including allergy shots.
How Do Allergy Shots Help?
Allergy shots are not the first line of defense. For some kids, simply avoiding the allergens and taking antihistamines or other medications is enough to keep their allergies under control. However, for some kids, this approach is just not enough. If your child continues to struggle with allergy symptoms, you doctor will often recommend allergy shots to help build your child’s immunity and tolerance for a certain allergen.
Allergy shots, also known as immunotherapy, work like a vaccine. Each shot contains a small trace of a purified form of a particular allergen. The strength of each dose increases over the first 3 to 6 months, then every two weeks, and then monthly. Each dose helps the body build immunity to specific allergens, which prevents or reduces the allergic reaction.
There are two phases:
Build-up phase: Injections are administered once or twice a week, with an increased dosage each time. This phase ranges from three to six months, depending on how often the injections are received.
Maintenance phase: This phase begins once the highest effective dosage is reached. The effective dose depends on your child’s level of sensitivity and response to the build-up phase. Longer periods of time between treatments are normal, ranging from two to four weeks. Your doctor/immunologist will determine the appropriate range of time.
Are Allergy Shots Safe?
Allergy shots help your child build up a tolerance to allergens so his or her reaction is less severe. Given year-round, allergy shots work better against some allergens than others. For example, the shots are most effective against allergens that are inhaled and insect venoms. On the other hand, allergy shots are not effective for food allergies.
Allergy shots, like any treatment, have potential risks and complications that should be carefully considered. Your child may experience a small reaction near the site of the injection within a few hours of the shot. His or her skin may become red, itchy or swollen. Cold compressions to the area and antihistamine can relieve the side effects.
Less common side effects include hives and itching all over the body. Severe reactions, such as wheezing, breathing difficulties, swelling in the throat, and nausea, are rare.
What Should You Consider?
If your physician recommends allergy shots for your child, here are a few tips:
- Refer to a board certified doctor/immunologist or a trained physician in immunotherapy.
- Consult your doctor if your child is ill, especially with asthma or respiratory difficulties. He or she may discuss precautions and alternative treatment options.
- To avoid adverse medications, discuss any current medications your child is taking with your doctor.
Allergy shots may be expensive, but no more than the combined cost of medicine, doctor and emergency room visits, and missed days of school. The treatment may require regular shots for three to five years and it may take a year or more for symptoms to improve. If this schedule is difficult to follow, consult your doctor for other options.
Other considerations to think about are:
- Your child’s age. Children younger than 2 should not have allergy shots. Children aged 3 to 4 may have a difficult time with many shots over several years. Most doctors don‘t recommend or administer allergy shots to children under 5.
- Your child’s health. Allergy shots should not be used when your child has had a recent heart attack, unstable angina, or other heart conditions.
Schedule a Consultation
There are different options to relieve your child’s allergy symptoms. If your child is suffering from seasonal or year-round allergies, it may be time to discuss a prevention and treatment plan with your doctor. Join our many satisfied patients, and schedule an appointment with Dr. Shukla today, for treatment options.