Nearly 7 million children in the United States suffer with asthma. While allergies and asthma are two different conditions, allergies often trigger asthma. Allergy shots can be very helpful in managing asthma and allergies, but usually require a 3 to 5 year commitment.
Polish researchers now say long-term control of allergic asthma can occur after only three years of allergy shots, instead of the currently recommended five years.
Dr. Iwona Stelmach of the Medical University of Lodz in Poland and colleagues said immunotherapy, or allergy shots, can alter the progression of allergic disease. Treatment, Stelmach said, alleviates patients of symptoms, while preventing asthma and the development of other allergies.
"The recommended duration of immunotherapy for long-term effectiveness has been three to five years," Stelmach, the study's lead author, said in a statement. "Our research shows that three years is an adequate duration for the treatment of childhood asthma associated with house dust mites. An additional two years adds no clinical benefit."
Dr. James Sublett, an allergist who is chairman of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology's Indoor Environment Committee, said not only does the shorter period of shots provide long-term therapeutic benefits for both children and adults, it can reduce total healthcare costs by 33 percent to 41 percent.
"It has long been observed that the effectiveness of allergy shots continue long after treatment has been completed," Sublett said. "
The Polish study was published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
Allergy-shots help build the immune system to fight specific allergens.
Some of the most common allergens are dust mites, pet dander, pollen, molds and cockroaches. Certain foods can also cause an allergic reaction as well as insect stings, medicines and chemicals.
The shots contain a purified form of the allergens that are causing problems. The dosage of the allergen is gradually increased over the first 4 to 5 months to a monthly maintenance dose, which is usually given for up to three to five years. Your child might not get symptom relief from allergies until higher doses are achieved at the end of the buildup phase. Once the highest effective and safe dose is reached, the frequency of shots gradually decreases to weekly, then biweekly, and then possibly monthly.
Allergy shots are safe and effective and can be given to children as young as 4 or 5 years old.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology offers these tips to parents to make sure their kids receive allergy shots safely:
- Allergy shots should be administered only under the supervision of an allergist/immunologist or other doctor specifically trained in immunotherapy.
- A child who is ill, especially with asthma or respiratory difficulties, should not receive further allergy shots until a doctor says it's safe.
- To avoid adverse interactions, tell the doctor administering the injections beforehand of any current medications your child is taking.
Allergen immunotherapy isn't necessary for everyone with allergies. Many kids get along fine by living in homes that are as free as possible of allergens or by taking allergy medication during peak allergy season.
But many children battle allergies year-round, and some can't control their symptoms with medications. For them, allergen immunotherapy can be beneficial.
If your child suffers from asthma or chronic allergies, you might want to contact your pediatrician or family doctor and talk to him or her about allergy shots.