While some children may eventually outgrow an allergy over time, there is no cure for allergies. However, allergists can treat the symptoms of allergies. The three main treatments for a child’s allergy symptoms are avoidance, allergy medicines and immune modulation.
Avoiding an allergy trigger is the best way to prevent an allergic reaction. Allergy medicines can help if it is difficult or impossible to avoid an allergen. When avoidance and medication are not enough, immune modulation can help by changing the way your child's immune system responds to the allergen.
In the future, research may make it possible to prevent an allergy from developing. For now, avoidance, allergy medicines and immune modulation are the three main ways to control allergic reactions.
There are many different allergic conditions. Common allergic conditions include:
- Allergic asthma
- Food allergy
- Atopic dermatitis
- Hives and swelling
- Allergic rhinitis
- Medication allergy
- Animal allergy
Each allergic condition has therapies that suit it best, and different allergy symptoms call for different treatments. The best treatment for your child’s allergies will depend on what your child is allergic to, what type of reaction or symptoms your child has and how severe the reaction is. Talk to your child’s allergist about which treatments are best for managing your child’s allergies.
What to Expect
What to Expect
You can expect different things from different treatment options:
An allergic reaction is a unique immune response to a substance (usually a protein) where a very specific antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE) is created against that substance. The best way to prevent your child from having an allergic reaction is to avoid the allergen.
Avoidance means keeping your child away from his or her allergy triggers, such as foods, medicines and any other allergens. For things like mold, dust mites and animal dander, avoidance may mean using environmental control.
When avoiding an allergen is not possible, there are several different treatments and therapies that can help manage allergy symptoms.
Allergy medicines may include:
- Over-the-counter medications. Over-the-counter allergy medicines include antihistamines, nasal sprays, eye drops, steroid ointments and moisturizers. These medicines do not require a prescription. You can try different types to see if they help your child’s symptoms.
- Prescription medications. An allergist can prescribe prescription allergy medicines if over-the-counter options are not helping. Types of prescription allergy medicines include:
- Stronger versions of over-the-counter medicines
- Epinephrine for severe reactions like anaphylaxis
- Asthma medicines, including quick-relief and long-term controller medicines
- Oral steroids, which can treat a wide variety of allergic reactions
- Immunotherapy. Allergy immunotherapy treatments can be given by injection or by mouth:
- Injections. Allergy injections or shots are one of the most common treatments for allergies. Allergy shots involve injecting a small amount of your child's specific allergen just under the skin.
- Oral immunotherapy. Oral immunotherapy is available for grass and ragweed allergy. These products may have specific age and sensitivity requirements for their use.
For some allergy medicines, the allergist will give you a prescription to fill at your pharmacy. Your child may need to take a medication at regular times and/or when symptoms appear. Ask your child’s allergist for detailed instructions about when and how to take the medication. Some allergy medicines, including allergy shots, are only given at the doctor’s office.
Immune modulation is a treatment that involves taking specialized medicines to adjust the immune system. Immune modulation can use anti-IgE medicine or other specialized immune modulators:
- Anti-IgE medicine. Omalizumab is a specialized injection that targets IgE. IgE is a type of antibody that the immune system creates in response to an allergen. These antibodies are responsible for triggering an allergic reaction. Omalizumab treats allergy-related asthma. It is available for children aged 6 years and up who show sensitization to perennial allergens such as pet dander or dust mites and have a total IgE level within a specific range. It is also available to treat chronic idiopathic urticaria or hives.
- Other specialized immune modulators. Mepolizumab is another specialized injection that is approved for ages 12 and up. It targets another part of the immune system that can also help individuals with certain types of asthma.
Both of these medicines are monoclonal antibodies. That means they are highly specific antibody injections that target specific aspects of the immune system that contribute to the allergic response.
The schedules for receiving these injections, monitoring their progress and length of treatment are different for each patient. Many other types of monoclonal antibody injections to treat asthma and allergies are in development. Ask your child's allergist for more information.
More on Allergy Shots
Treatment with allergy shots begins by injecting a small amount of highly diluted allergen into the upper arm just under the skin. Your child will receive increasing amounts of the allergen each week—first by increasing the dose and then by increasing the concentration. This continues until your child reaches a top dose, which is either the strongest dose available or the highest amount he or she can tolerate.
Once your child reaches the top dose, weekly injections continue at that level for maintenance. As treatment continues, your child should experience some relief of his or her allergy symptoms. He or she may be able to lower the dosage on other medicines used to control symptoms.
Depending on how your child is doing, the
interval between shots can be stretched to every two, three and, eventually,
four weeks. Reactions to the shots may require slowing down the program or even
going backwards a few steps. The goal is to achieve a maximum safe dose with no
side effects and excellent control of symptoms.
Your child may miss allergy shots due to
illness or vacation. His or her doctor will make an adjustment in the dose and
schedule depending on the situation. You should cancel or reschedule an allergy
shot if your child has a fever or the flu or if he or she is wheezing.
Your child may continue to receive allergy
shots for many weeks or months. Many allergy shot treatment programs last for
three to five years. If your child has been on a four-week schedule for at
least a year and is only taking shots to treat the allergy, then you may
consider stopping the allergy shots. There is no way to know when to stop the
allergy shot program other than by monitoring your child’s progress and
reactions to treatment. Please give the program at least one year before
deciding if it has worked for your child.
Allergy shots work best for life-threatening
bee sting reactions and for nasal allergy. They may also be used to treat
allergic asthma, but they may not work for children with severe or poorly
controlled allergic asthma. For these children, immune modulation treatments
Key Points to Remember
Key Points to Remember
- The three main treatments for a child’s allergy symptoms are avoidance, allergy medicines and immune modulation.
- Avoiding an allergy trigger is the best way to prevent an allergic reaction.
- Allergy medicines can help if it is difficult or impossible to avoid an allergen.
- When avoidance and medication are not enough, immune modulation can help by changing the way your child's immune system responds to the allergen.
- The best treatment for your child’s allergies will depend on what your child is allergic to, what type of reaction or symptoms your child has and how severe the reaction is.
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