What to expect from allergy shots

Jan 31, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. ET

Considering immunotherapy for your child's seasonal and environmental allergies? Learn what it's really like to take your child for allergy shots on a regular basis.

Sick Child

For most parents, the idea of signing a child up for a bunch of shots sounds tedious at best and nightmarish at worse. But for parents raising children with severe allergies, immunotherapy, commonly referred to as allergy shots, is worth any price. Kids with allergies suffer from frequent ear and sinus infections, skin issues, asthma and discomfort. These symptoms can appear year round depending on the types of allergies. If your child suffers from allergies, allergy shots may be the best path to relief.

Understand childhood allergies

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, approximately 20 percent of Americans suffer from allergies. Allergies and asthma often go hand in hand.

AAFA cites that around 80 percent of children with asthma have allergies. If your child's pediatrician suspects allergies, your child will generally receive skin tests to identify the allergens that trigger your child's symptoms.

The skin test is uncomfortable, but not painful. These allergens can be found indoors and outdoors. Common allergies include dust mites, tree pollen and pet dander.

Does your child have allergies? >>

Who can get allergy shots?

Immunotherapy works better for some than others. Many kids can manage allergies through a combination of prescription and over the counter medications, especially if the allergies only flare up seasonally or after exposure to specific allergens such as cat dander.

For kids with many allergies, those medications may not work consistently and symptoms may appear year round. These are the kids most likely to benefit from allergy shots.

Depending on your health insurance, allergy shots may be expensive. Talk to your doctor's insurance specialist before you commit to treatment and find out if you can pay with a payment plan if necessary.

Discover 5 quick tips for healthy kids >>

How do allergy shots work?

Immunotherapy is customized for each child. Your child's skin test is used to develop a special serum made just for your child's allergies.

Depending on your doctor's schedule and your child's allergies, your child will receive shots once or twice a week from anywhere from four months to a year. The amount of allergens in each dose is minute, and is increased with each visit until your child is at the maintenance dose. At that point, your child won't have to receive shots as frequently.

Children with many allergies may receive multiple injections at each visit. Allergy shots are not as painful as most vaccinations.

Is it worth it?

Tissue boxFor children with severe environmental allergies, allergy shots can vastly improve quality of life and relieve symptoms.

As a parent, you can be part of the decision. Ask your child's allergist for advice, but make the decision based on your family's situation. Let your child know exactly what the immunotherapy is for.

Many allergy and asthmatic kids are eager for ways to relieve the itching, sneezing and wheezing associated with allergies, even it means injections.

More on kid's health

How to prevent ear infections
Top 5 childhood sicknesses and how to prevent them
5 questions to ask your child's pediatrician

Tagged in