Do Allergy Shots Work for Children?
Per the American Academy of Pediatrics, age is not a barrier to skin testing– even infants can benefit. Children can also receive allergy shots. The age in which shots may be recommended to young children is done on a case-by-case basis. While there has been some disagreement in the medical community about the role of allergy shots in children younger than 5, there have been multiple studies showing effectiveness for this age group.
What is Allergy Skin Testing?
The first appointment at an allergist will usually involve testing to determine what allergens are bothersome. Skin testing is the most reliable form of allergy testing. This testing is a simple series of tiny scratches made on the patients back. The scratches are conducted with a small instrument similar to a plastic toothpick, which contains trace amounts of a single allergen, such as mold, pollen, dust mite, and animal dander. When the results are positive, a small reaction on the skin occurs, usually within 20 minutes. This reaction is generally a small bump, similar to a mosquito bite, and may cause some itchiness. This indicates that an allergy to that specific trigger.
An allergist will use the results of the skin test along with a medical and family history to diagnose any allergies and recommend a course of treatment. Allergy treatment options include:
- Immunotherapy (Allergy Shots)
While avoidance is the best defense, it is often impossible to avoid allergens that can trigger some allergies. To relieve the suffering of allergy symptoms, for most inhalant allergies (dust mite cockroach, cat, pollen, mold) and stinging insect (bees, wasps) allergies, our allergists may recommend allergy shots.
During your child’s visit, we recommend:
- Bringing a Distraction – Bring a comfort toy, book, or an electronic tablet to distract your child. While it is not painful after the skin test, patients may get itchy and uncomfortable from the reactions. A toy can help pass time and distract them during the long initial appointment.
- Talking to Your Child About the Allergy Test – Tests and going to the doctor can sound scary to a child. Reassure them that the test will not be painful, and explain to them it is necessary to learn what they are allergic to and will help them feel better.
What are Allergy Shots?
Allergy shots increase a patients tolerance to the harmful allergens. By injecting gradually increasing doses of the offending allergen extract, the immune system builds up a tolerance to that allergen. We think of each shot as adding a brick to the “wall of protection” against things that trigger a patients allergies.
In the beginning, allergy shots are usually administered two to three times per week. With this build-up, improvement can occur within three to four months and will usually be at its full benefit within the first year to 18 months. In a typical treatment schedule, shots are tapered to weekly intervals once a maintenance dosage is reached (usually at three to six months) then to every two weeks at 12 months, then every three to four weeks after 18 to 24 months. Most patients can come off their shots after about three years.
Our doctors are also trained in pediatrics, making them comfortable treating adolescent patients.
Benefits of Allergy Shots in Children
Research has also shown that allergy shots can prevent children who have allergic rhinitis from getting asthma. Treating the underlying cause of allergies in children can help prevent other sinus problems, improve quality of life, and help prevent your child from missing school due to allergy and asthma symptoms. This is why it is critical to see a board-certified allergist immediately if you believe that your child may be suffering from the symptoms of allergies