Treatment for a Child's Allergy

Specific treatment for allergies will be determined by your child's physician based on the following:

  • Your child's age, overall health, and medical history

  • Severity of the allergic reaction

  • Your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the allergic reaction

  • Your opinion or preference

The three most effective ways to treat allergies are avoidance, immunotherapy, and medication.

What is avoidance?

Avoidance is staying away from a substance that causes an allergic reaction.

Suggestions for avoiding (some) allergens:

  • Remain indoors when the pollen count is high and on windy days.

  • Dustproof the home, particularly your child's bedroom.

    • Eliminate, when possible, wall-to-wall carpet, venetian blinds, and down-filled blankets or pillows.

    • Wash bedding, curtains, and clothing often and in hot water to eliminate dust mites.

    • When possible, keep bedding in dust covers.

  • Use air conditioning instead of opening the windows.

  • Consider putting a dehumidifier in damp areas of the home, but remember to clean it often.

  • Have your child wear a face mask if playing outside when the pollen count is high.

  • Take vacations in areas where pollen is not as prevalent—such as locations near the ocean.

Your child's physician will also have suggestions for avoiding the allergens that cause reactions.

What is immunotherapy (allergy shots)?

Immunotherapy is a type of treatment for allergic children with hay fever and/or asthma. It is also called desensitization, hyposensitization, and allergy shots. A mixture of the various pollens, mold spores, animal danders, and dust mites to which the child is allergic is formulated. This mixture is called an allergy extract. This extract contains no medication such as antihistamines or corticosteroids.

How is immunotherapy administered?

Immunotherapy is given by injection under the skin, usually into the fatty tissue in the back of the arm. It is not painful like an injection into the muscle, such as a tetanus shot.

How often are immunotherapy injections necessary?

Injections may be given weekly or twice a week until a maximum dose is tolerated. This is called the maintenance dose. It may take about one year to reach the maintenance dose. At this point, the frequency of injections may be decreased to every other week and finally to once a month. Your child's physician will establish the appropriate schedule of injections to meet your child's medical needs.

Symptom improvement and immunotherapy

About 80 to 90 percent of children improve with immunotherapy. It usually takes 12 to 18 months before definite reduction in allergy symptoms is noticed. In some children, a reduction in symptoms is evident in as soon as six to eight months.

Immunotherapy is only part of the treatment plan for allergic children. Since it takes time for immunotherapy to become effective, your child will need to continue the allergy medications, as prescribed by his or her physician. It is also important to continue eliminating allergens (such as dust mites) from your child's environment.

Are there side effects to immunotherapy?

There are two types of reactions to immunotherapy: local and systemic. The local reaction is redness and swelling at the injection site. If this condition occurs repeatedly, then the extract strength or schedule is changed.

A systemic reaction is one that involves a different site, not the injection site. The symptoms may include nasal congestion, sneezing, hives, swelling, wheezing, and low blood pressure. Such reactions can be serious and even life threatening. However, deaths related to immunotherapy are rare. If a systemic reaction occurs, your child may continue taking shots, but of a lower dosage.

If you have any questions concerning immunotherapy, always consult your child's physician or allergist.

Medication as treatment for allergy

For children who suffer from allergies, there are many effective medications. This is a brief overview of the most commonly used types of medications. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against some over-the-counter medicines for infants and young children. Always consult your child's physician before giving your child any over-the-counter medications.