Are Allergy Shots Safe Treatments for Children?

Immunotherapy for kids

Patient receiving allergy, vacation vaccination.
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 Many parents are concerned that allergy shots should not be given to young children when in fact, children probably benefit the most from allergy shots. Allergy shots, or immunotherapy, can not only treat allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis and allergic asthma in children but also prevent the development of asthma in children with nasal allergies. There are several factors to consider when thinking about administering immunotherapy to a child, however.

There is such a thing as being too young to get allergy shots, however. A child must be old enough to be able to communicate to a parent or medical personnel if he is experiencing symptoms of an allergic reaction to an allergy shot. The child must also be old enough to cooperate with the allergy shot itself; if going to the allergy clinic is so traumatic to the child that he or she cries and screams at every visit, it's likely that his parent will eventually stop taking him for allergy shots, and the therapy won’t be successful.

Most experts on allergy shots feel that the age at which most children can tolerate allergy shots is 5 years old. Based on my experiences, except in certain cases when the child is very mature or when allergy shots are desperately needed, I usually wait until the child is at least 6 years old. This is only a general rule of thumb; some children may not be mature enough for allergy shots until age 8, 10 or even 12.

In my clinic, I will often give the child a saline (salt water) shot to see how well he tolerates the process before committing to allergy shots. Another clue as to whether a child will tolerate allergy shots is how well he does with allergy testing -- if the child cries or screams, he probably will not do well with allergy shots.

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Cox L, Li JT, Nelson H, Lockey R. Allergen Immunotherapy: A Practice Parameter Second Update. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2007; 120(3):S25-85.

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