Do you have a sneezy, sniffling child at home? You're not alone. Allergies are on the rise for children, but fortunately, several treatment options are available to help children manage their allergies. One long-term treatment option is allergy shots.
While allergy shots are fairly common, it's essential to understand the risks and benefits of this treatment before making a decision. Continue reading to learn about the safety of allergy shots for kids, potential side effects, and alternative treatments.
What Are Allergy Shots?
Allergy shots are a type of allergy immunotherapy and are a treatment used to retrain the immune system to stop being allergic to one's allergy triggers. These shots contain small amounts of allergens and are typically administered in a doctor's office over several years.
The primary goal of allergen immunotherapy is to gradually expose the immune system to the allergen in increasing doses. This exposure helps the immune system build up tolerance and reduce its overreaction to the allergen, resulting in a diminished allergic response or, in some cases, complete relief from allergy symptoms.
Do Allergy Shots Work for Kids?
Yes, allergy shots are quite effective for children. However, several factors can influence the effectiveness of these shots for kids. These factors may impact how well the treatment works and how much relief the child experiences from their symptoms. Some of these factors include:
- Type and severity of allergies: The specific allergens to which the child is allergic and the severity of their allergy symptoms can impact how well they respond to the shots. Children with severe allergies may still benefit from immunotherapy, but it may take longer to see noticeable improvements.
- Consistency and adherence to treatment: The effectiveness of allergy shots depends on the child's adherence to the treatment plan. Missing doses or not following the prescribed schedule may hinder the treatment's success.
- Treatment duration: Allergy shots require a significant time commitment. The full treatment course may last several months to several years. Completing the recommended treatment duration is crucial for optimal results.
- Timing and early intervention: Starting the treatment early in the course of allergies, especially for allergic rhinitis, may be more effective in preventing the progression of allergies and asthma.
- The overall health of the child: A child's overall health can influence how well they respond to allergy immunotherapy. Children with other health conditions or compromised immune systems may have different treatment outcomes.
- Environmental allergen exposure: The child's exposure to allergens in their living environment can impact the effectiveness of the shots. Minimizing exposure to known allergens may help improve treatment outcomes.
- Individual immune response: Each child's immune system is unique, and some may respond more favorably to allergy shots than others. The child's immune response plays a significant role in determining the effectiveness of the treatment.
Are Allergy Shots Safe for Kids?
Yes, allergy shots are generally considered safe for children when administered by trained healthcare professionals in a controlled medical setting. However, as with any medical treatment, there are potential risks and side effects that need to be considered before you decide to move forward.
Are Allergy Shots Painful?
The level of pain experienced during the administration of allergy shots varies from person to person. The injections may cause mild discomfort for most children, such as a brief stinging or an itching sensation at the injection site, but the discomfort is usually short-lived and manageable.
However, for other children, the shots may be uncomfortable and scary, particularly for children who fear needles. The prospect of getting regular injections can be very distressing, leaving them feeling anxious and overwhelmed.
Fortunately, doctors often take steps to address these concerns, helping ease the process for children. These steps include:
- Open communication: Explaining the procedure in an age-appropriate and reassuring manner can help the child know exactly what to expect. Being honest while emphasizing the potential benefits of the treatment can also set realistic expectations.
- Distractions: Offering distractions, such as books, toys, music, and videos during the injection can help keep the child entertained. Distractions can also redirect the child's focus, minimizing their fear and anxiety.
What Types of Allergies Do Allergy Shots Treat?
Because of the different allergens we are exposed to in our daily lives, there are many types of allergies that your child may come face to face with. Luckily, allergy shots have been made to be effective against different types of allergies. Some of these include:
- Pollen allergies: Allergies triggered by pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds cause hay fever symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes. These can be effectively treated with allergy immunotherapy, where the patient is exposed to small amounts of the allergen.
- Dust mite allergies: Allergy shots can provide relief for kids that are allergic to dust mites. These tiny organisms, commonly found in dust and household fabrics, can trigger respiratory symptoms and skin reactions. During the treatment, the patient is exposed to a small amount of this allergen, allowing their immune system to desensitize and build immunity.
- Pet allergies: If your child is allergic to pets, such as cats or dogs, these shots can help reduce their sensitivity to these allergens.
- Mold allergies: The shots can also help alleviate mold allergies caused by mold spores, commonly found in damp environments, which can trigger respiratory symptoms and worsen asthma.
- Insect sting allergies: Regularly administered allergy shots can help prevent more serious reactions such as anaphylaxis after a bee sting or other insect stings. The shots can desensitize your child's body so that a future sting won't trigger such a severe reaction.
How Long Do Allergy Shots Take To Work?
The time it takes for allergy shots to start providing noticeable relief varies from person to person. In general, most individuals begin to experience some improvement within a few months. However, the full benefits of this treatment may take several months to more than a year to become evident.
The process of allergen immunotherapy involves two phases:
- Build-up phase: During this phase, the dosage of allergens in the shots is gradually increased over a series of weekly or bi-weekly injections. The build-up phase typically lasts for three to six months.
- Maintenance phase: Once the optimal dosage is reached, the patient enters the maintenance phase. In this phase, the injections are spaced out, usually given at monthly intervals. The maintenance phase continues for several months to a few years, depending on the individual's response to the treatment.
The entire process of allergy shots, from the start of the build-up phase to the completion of the maintenance phase, typically spans 3 to 5 years. Some people may notice an improvement in their allergy symptoms during the build-up phase, while for others, it may take until they reach the maintenance phase to experience significant relief. Regular and consistent adherence to the treatment schedule is essential for achieving the best results.
What Are the Benefits?
Allergy shots offer significant and tangible benefits for many children with persistent allergies, such as long-term relief and the ability to go about their life more easily. Some benefits of allergy shots include:
- Long-term symptom relief: This treatment can provide long-lasting relief from allergy symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, and skin rashes. Completing the treatment can decrease the need for allergy medications, improving your quality of life.
- Reduced reliance on medications: With successful allergy shot treatment, many people experience a decreased need for allergy medications, leading to potential cost savings and fewer side effects from medications.
- Prevention of asthma progression: Allergic rhinitis or hay fever may progress to asthma in some individuals. Allergy shots are quite effective in preventing this condition's progression, especially in children and adolescents.
- Decreased allergic reactions: By desensitizing the immune system to allergens, allergy shots can reduce the severity and frequency of allergic reactions. And with fewer allergy symptoms, your child can enjoy an improved quality of life, better sleep, and reduced interference with daily activities.
- Potential allergen tolerance: The main aim of the immunotherapy treatment is to build the body's tolerance to allergens, which may lead to fewer reactions upon subsequent exposures to allergens. This is particularly beneficial for kids with severe allergies.
- Suitable for various allergies: Allergy shots can be effective for a range of allergens, including pollen, dust mites, pet dander, mold spores, and certain insect venoms. This makes it a suitable treatment option for children with multiple allergies.
Potential Risks and Side Effects
While allergen immunotherapy is generally safe and well-tolerated, they do carry some potential risks and side effects, especially for children. Parents and caregivers must be aware of these possibilities before starting allergy shot treatment for their child. Some of the potential risks and side effects include:
- Local reactions: Children may experience redness, swelling, or itching at the area of the injection, which is a common and usually mild reaction. The burns and blisters should go away a few hours after the injection.
- Systemic reactions: In some cases, children may experience more generalized reactions, such as hives, itching, sneezing, or nasal congestion, shortly after receiving the shot. Severe systemic reactions, including anaphylaxis, are rare but can occur. Anaphylaxis is a severe and potentially life-threatening reaction that requires immediate medical attention.
- Delayed reactions: Children may occasionally experience delayed reactions several hours after receiving an allergy shot. These reactions might include prolonged itching, swelling, or localized redness.
- Asthma exacerbation: In rare cases, the shots might trigger asthma symptoms or worsen existing asthma. It's crucial to closely monitor children with asthma during the treatment.
- Non-response: While most children benefit from this treatment, some may not experience significant improvement in their allergy symptoms after the treatment. This implies that their immune systems are not responding to the treatment as expected.
Easy & Painless Alternatives To Allergy Shots
If you're on the fence about allergen immunotherapy, many easy and painless alternatives may help your child manage their symptoms. These include:
- Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT): SLIT is a painless, needle-free alternative to allergy shots. It involves using allergy drops or tablets to place small doses of allergen extracts under the tongue. SLIT is highly effective for treating allergies and is particularly beneficial for children ages 5 and older, as it eliminates the need for injections and can be conveniently administered at home under parental supervision.
- Nasal sprays: Over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription nasal sprays can help provide short-term relief for allergy symptoms like congestion and runny nose. These sprays contain corticosteroids or antihistamines and are easy to administer without needles.
- Antihistamine tablets or syrups: Antihistamine medications are available in tablet or syrup form and can be used to temporarily relieve allergy symptoms such as sneezing, itching, and watery eyes. They are typically well-tolerated and easy for children to take.
- Nasal rinse solutions: Saline nasal rinses can help flush out allergens from the nasal passages and relieve nasal congestion and irritation.
- Allergen-proof bedding: Special allergen-proof mattresses and pillow covers can reduce exposure to allergens, providing relief from nighttime allergy symptoms.
- Air purifiers: High-quality air purifiers with HEPA filters can help remove allergens from indoor air, creating a cleaner environment for children with allergies.
- Avoidance strategy: Identifying and avoiding specific allergens can be an effective strategy in managing allergies. For example, minimizing exposure to pollen by staying indoors during peak pollen times can help reduce symptoms.
- Eye drops: OTC eye drops can relieve itchy and irritated eyes due to allergies from airborne allergens such as pollen.
Remember to consult a qualified healthcare provider to determine the best alternative treatment for your child, depending on their specific allergies.
When To Talk To Your Doctor?
If your child experiences persistent allergy symptoms that significantly impact their daily life, interfere with their sleep, or are not adequately controlled with OTC medications, then you need to make an appointment with your child’s doctor and start talking about possible treatment plans.
Take Our Allergy Assessment & Get Treatment Today
Looking for the perfect treatment solution for your child's allergies? At Wyndly, our doctors will work with you and your child to identify what your child is allergic to and create a personalized treatment plan to get them long-term relief. Take our quick online allergy assessment to take the first step towards an allergy-free life for your child.