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Health Information For Parents
Allergy shots (allergen immunotherapy) can treat some types of allergies. They’re sometimes used for children with allergies to:
Allergy shots aren’t helpful for food allergies.
An allergy is when the body’s immune system overreacts to a usually harmless substance. Things that cause allergic reactions are called allergens. Common allergens include dust mites, molds, pollen, pets with fur or feathers, stinging insects, and foods.
The body reacts to the allergen by releasing chemicals, one of which is histamine. This release can cause symptoms such as wheezing, trouble breathing, coughing, a stuffy nose, and more. Some allergic reactions can be serious.
The best way to prevent or control allergy symptoms is to avoid allergens. Allergists (doctors who identify and treat allergies) look for causes of an allergic reaction with skin tests and blood tests. Based on the test results, they can recommend treatments, including medicines and ways to avoid allergens.
If these treatments don’t help, the allergist might recommend allergy shots.
Allergy shots help the body build immunity to specific allergens, so it’s not as bothered by them. Allergy shots also can help kids who have allergies and asthma have fewer asthma flare-ups.
Allergy shots contain a tiny amount of a purified form of the allergen causing problems. Doctors increase the dose slowly over the first 3–6 months. This lets the immune system safely adjust and build immunity to the allergens. This is called the buildup phase.
The highest effective safe dose becomes a child’s monthly maintenance dose. Health care providers give this to the child for about 3 to 5 years. Most kids will need fewer shots over time.
Some kids’ allergy symptoms ease during the buildup phase. Others don’t feel better until they’re into the maintenance phase. After years of getting allergy shots, some may have lasting relief from symptoms.
Allergy shots given by a trained health professional are safe and effective. Kids as young as 5 years old can get them.
Kids may have a small reaction near the site of the injection. This can happen right away or within a few hours of the shot. Skin on the arm near the site may get a little red, itch, and swell. Applying an ice pack to the area and giving the child an antihistamine can help.
More widespread reactions, like hives and itching all over the body, are less common. And more severe reactions (like wheezing, breathing problems, throat swelling, and nausea) are rare. A serious reaction needs treatment right away. That’s why kids who get allergy shots are watched in the doctor’s office for about 30 minutes afterward.
Some other tips:
Before your child gets allergy shots, be sure to tell the doctor about any other medicines your child takes.
Ask your primary care doctor to recommend an allergist/immunologist. If a family member or friend sees an allergist/immunologist, ask who they recommend. You also can search online at:
Doctors give allergy shots with needles that are smaller than those used for most childhood vaccinations, so they’re less painful. Still, for some kids a shot can seem scary. A parent’s positive and supportive attitude can help. Treatment goes much better when parents are confident and committed to the immunotherapy.
While getting a shot, your child can squeeze your hand, sing a song, watch a video, or use another distraction that will take the focus off the injection.
Understanding the benefits of allergy shots and how they work will help you and your child accept them as routine.
Explore more than 20 articles in English and Spanish about all aspects of allergies in children.
Find out what the experts have to say.
Kids with severe allergies can be at risk for a sudden, serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. The good news is that when treated properly, anaphylaxis can be managed.
Imagine if you were always sneezing because you were allergic to something.
During an allergic reaction, your body’s immune system goes into overdrive. Find out more in this article for kids.
Kids who have allergies also might have a breathing problem called asthma. Find out more in this article for kids.
Allergies don’t cause asthma, but kids who have allergies are more likely to get asthma.
Find out if allergies can make a person’s asthma symptoms worse.
Your eyes itch, your nose is running, you’re sneezing, and you’re covered in hives. The enemy known as allergies has struck again.
Hives are red, itchy blotches that can appear because of an allergic reaction. Find out more in this article for kids.
Although most allergic reactions aren’t serious, severe reactions can be life-threatening and can require immediate medical attention.
Insect sting allergies can cause serious reactions. Find out how to keep kids safe.
A person with severe allergies can be at risk for a sudden, serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This reaction can seem scary, but the good news is it can be treated.
Doctors are diagnosing more and more people with food allergies. Knowing what to expect and how to deal with food allergies can make a big difference in preventing serious illness.
Doctors use several different types of allergy tests, depending on what a person may be allergic to. Find out what to expect from allergy tests.
Being prepared for an allergy emergency will help you, your child, and other caregivers respond in the event of a serious reaction.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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