Understanding Allergy Immunotherapy (Child)
Immunotherapy is a way to treat allergies. It helps your child’s body react less to the things that cause allergy symptoms for him or her. It is also known as desensitization, hyposensitization, or allergy shots.
How immunotherapy works
Immunotherapy is done to treat a child who has nasal allergies (allergic rhinitis) or asthma. A mixture is made from things he or she is allergic to. These may include pollens, mold spores, animal dander, and dust mites. This mixture is called an allergy extract and it works very much like a vaccine. It is then given in the form of a shot (injection). Over time, higher and higher doses are given. This causes your child’s body to learn to become more accustomed to the exposures so more exposure to allergens in the environment don't cause a hyperactive response. The vaccine shot has no medicine such as antihistamines in it.
Immunotherapy is given by a shot into the fat in the back of the upper arm. It’s not as painful as a shot into a muscle, such as a flu shot. After your child has the shot, he or she may have some redness and swelling at the area on the arm.
Your child may have shots once or twice a week for up to a year. The dose may change over time. When he or she reaches the maximum dose that helps, your child may have the shots less often. This may be every other week and then once a month, for example. Your healthcare provider will set a schedule for your child.
It can take from 12 to 18 months before your child’s allergy symptoms are better. Some children may start to feel relief in 3 to 6 months. Your child may be treated for about 5 years.
Some types of immunotherapy may now be given under the tongue. The drops are given daily under tongue and can be given at home. Not all insurance plans cover this form of immunotherapy.
While your child is being treated
Immunotherapy is only part of the treatment plan for children with allergies. Since it takes time to work, your child will need to keep taking allergy medicines as advised by his or her healthcare provider. It is also important to remove as many allergens—such as dust mites—as you can from your child’s environment.
When to call the healthcare provider
Call your child's healthcare provider if your child has symptoms such as:
A red rash that may itch (hives)
Unexplained swelling of any parts of the body
Wheezing when he or she breathes