Allergies affect millions of children in the United States, and allergic rhinitis is the most common type. Available treatments such as antihistamines suppress substances involved in immune reactions to help minimize symptoms. 

Immunotherapy, on the other hand, is the only allergy treatment that changes the immune system to provide long-term relief. In many cases, immunotherapy leads to lasting relief from allergy symptoms. Take a moment to explore how immunotherapy can help your child.

What is immunotherapy?

Here at Riviera Allergy Medical Center, allergy and immunology specialist Dr. Ulrike Ziegner has extensive experience diagnosing and treating asthma and allergic conditions. Immunotherapy is among the treatments we offer to help adults and children get relief from their allergy symptoms.

Immunotherapy for allergies involves using gradually increasing amounts of an allergen to change the immune system and reduce allergy symptoms. Treatment helps the immune system tolerate the allergen so that your child gets better. Allergen immunotherapy can treat:

  • Allergic rhinitis

  • Allergic conjunctivitis

  • Asthma

How immunotherapy is administered

Immunotherapy is most commonly administered in the form of injections in two phases. Initially, Dr. Ziegner injects a small amount of concentrated allergen. Each week the dose gradually increases to make the immune system less sensitive to the allergen. This is known as the buildup phase. The length of the buildup phase varies but can generally last 3-6 months.

During the maintenance phase, your child may receive immunotherapy injections once a month. Most children will remain in the maintenance phase for 3-5 years.

How effective is immunotherapy?

Allergen immunotherapy is very effective in decreasing allergy symptoms. In children, immunotherapy can help to prevent allergic rhinitis from progressing to asthma. Children who have an allergy are at risk of developing an allergy to another substance. Fortunately, immunotherapy can help to prevent the development of new allergies.

Allergy symptoms usually improve during the first year of treatment, and the most noticeable improvement often shows up in the second year of treatment.

Are allergy shots safe?

Allergen immunotherapy is given under direct physician supervision and is safe and effective for children starting at age 5. Allergy shots are given year-round and work against a wide variety of substances.

Immunotherapy is more effective against some substances than others. In general, allergen immunotherapy is most effective against airborne allergens such as:

  • Pollen

  • Dust mites

  • Mold

  • Pet dander

Reactions to allergy shots are possible, though they’re typically mild. Your child may experience a small reaction near the injection site; the skin may become red and itchy. Dr. Ziegner may recommend an antihistamine if necessary. Severe reactions are rare.  

More widespread reactions, like hives and itching all over the body, are less common. In even fewer cases, severe reactions like wheezing, breathing difficulties, swelling in the throat, and nausea can develop.  Dr. Ziegner recommends to take an antihistamine prior to the allergy shot to avoid such reactions.

Benefits of immunotherapy for children

Allergen immunotherapy does more than help your child build immunity to specific allergens. Allergy shots reduce the risk of your child developing more severe allergy complications such as anaphylaxis. As mentioned earlier, immunotherapy can prevent the development of allergic asthma, and can prevent the development of new allergies. 

Reducing allergy symptoms can greatly improve your child’s well-being and quality of life. Children with allergies are more likely to have trouble sleeping, and allergy symptoms can also interfere with your child’s ability to focus at school. 

Relieving allergy symptoms reduces the number of missed school days. Early identification of your child’s allergies and effective treatment enables your child to feel and function at their best. 

If you suspect or know that your child has an allergy, don’t delay. Contact a member of our team to schedule an appointment with Dr. Ziegner at our Redondo Beach, California, office. Call 310-504-3242, and you can also send a message to Dr. Ziegner and the team here on our website.

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