Allergy shots for kids: Is there a better way?

Georgia is beautiful in the spring time – the azaleas, the dogwoods, the God-awful tree pollen!

I suffered through many a lovely spring with terrible allergies that only grew worse with each of my pregnancies. I slogged through the haze with a Zyrtec prescription and finally started allergy shots. I wanted to hit the maintenance level quickly so I took three shots, twice a week for several months.

And while I think the allergy shots did help my symptoms, I am wondering at what point parents are willing to put their kids through all those shots?

A study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology showed children who get allergy shots had lower health care costs over 18 months than otherwise similar children. The cost of their shots, about $600, was more than made up by drug savings and fewer doctors’ visits and hospitalizations, according to an article in USA Today.

So doctors are trying to come up with ways to make immunotherapy more appealing with non-shot alternatives and faster shot schedules, similar to the one I did.

From USA Today:

“Immunotherapy without shots is standard in Europe. There, most doctors prescribe “sublingual immunotherapy.” Patients get liquids or pills containing extracts of grass pollen, dust mites, ragweed or other allergens and put a bit under their tongues at home each day.”

“But none of these products has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Some U.S. physicians prescribe sublingual use of liquid extracts approved for injections — but that is an unproven practice. And some studies on sublingual products under development have failed to show they work better than placebos.”

“That is changing, though. In one new study, a daily sublingual grass pollen pill reduced symptoms and medication use 26% in children and teens, says Michael Blaiss, clinical professor of pediatrics and medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis. Blaiss, a consultant to the drug’s maker, Merck, presented the data at a recent meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. A study in adults found similar results, he says.”

“The pills have not been compared with shots and might cost more. They are not available now.”

I think the immunotherapy pills would be very attractive to families. I can’t find anything online saying that the pills have been approved in the U.S. yet but my brother visited an allergist yesterday who talked to him about the pills. So I’m very confused about whether they are actually available now in the U.S. (Maybe the doctors is confused or knows they are about to be approved.)

If I had to pursue the shot route with my kids I don’t think I would do the faster shot schedule like I did. You’re still getting the same number of shots, just all at the same time!

So what do you think: Have your kids needed allergy shots? What tipped your decision to do shots versus just taking antihistamines? Would you do the faster shot schedule? How did it go? What are your recommendations for parents considering starting shots for their kids?

What do you make of the European pill immunotherapy? Would you pursue that option if it was available in the U.S.?

48 comments Add your comment

malleesmom

April 13th, 2011
5:49 am

My oldest (age 12 almost 13) has been using sublingual allergy drops for close to three years. Three drops under the tongue every morning and she is done. Talk to your allergist. When we started almost three years ago, treatment was not as widely used in the US but has been used overseas for more than 20 years. It was the right treatment for our child. We just didn’t want to go through the hassle of shots. She breathes so much better and the last several allergy seasons (both spring and fall) have been much easier. The key to success of any allergy treatment is to finish the course. Many people I spoke to who used shots for themselves or their child would stop after a year or two. We have done the drops as directed for more than two years. The end of this calendar, we will be done. Highly recommend it.

1sus

April 13th, 2011
6:49 am

My 9 year old gets allergy shots (only two shots at one time per month now). Feels like it has been forever! Seeing allergist tomorrow, in fact. We ended up going that route because her allergies/asthma were really affecting her sleep. She coughed ALL NIGHT! We have seen a 100 percent improvement. But anything I could do at home rather than have to go to the doctor would ge great in my book. I would even do the shots at home if they would have let me!

shaggy

April 13th, 2011
7:12 am

Sublingual treatment sounds interesting and just might work for some people.
My wife has 2 allergy seasons. The spring mega-allergy season and late summer’s ragweed season, which tends to be milder for her. She used to do all of the medication stuff, but has decided to just tough it out, because the medications are often worse than the allergies themselves.
The boy takes after dad. Not allergic to anything. He was breastfed and got dirty early, playing in woods, creeks, and mountains before he was able to crawl. I am convinced that being exposed to life (dirt) early has helped build a strong immune system. It seems too much emphasis has been placed on isolating kids from their environment…too clean. So when they are finally exposed, they have more allergic reactions, because their immune systems didn’t develop to protect them from the allergen.

Jeff

April 13th, 2011
8:31 am

The only allergy I have is alcohol. It makes my nose run, makes my face swell a little. But other than that, I have been lucky to have no allergies at all.

JJ

April 13th, 2011
8:32 am

No allergies here. Neither me or my child.

I did suffer YEARS ago. I remember trying to mow the lawn. I’d do a row, go inside and sneeze and watery eyes, etc for 30 minutes. Go back out and try again, same thing.

But, every since then, I have not had any problems……last weekend I was pruning some bushes and there was pollen everywhere. I didn’t have any reaction to it, and kept on pruning…..

gpkbsin

April 13th, 2011
8:47 am

I take allergy shots since last year. I’ve seen lots of kids early in the morning for shots. Some of them as young as 4 years old. Its amazing how these kids are ok to take shots. One family comes with 3 kids at different ages. I’m thinking I might have to take my 4 year old for shots too but I don’t want to deal with crying and what not.

Waldo the Great

April 13th, 2011
9:03 am

I had allergy shots from the age of 7 to about 16 (back in the 1960’s and early ’70’s) and am so glad this was done. When I was a little kid, I suffered from pollen, mold, and animal allergies to the point where I missed school in first and second grade. The symptoms gradually abated after starting the shots and I have had absolutely no allergy symptoms at all since I was a teenager and I’m in my 50’s now. I would strongly recommend shots for anybody in the same situation.

mom2alex&max

April 13th, 2011
9:09 am

I took allergy shots for years when I was a kid and they didn’t do diddly squat. I still suffer badly during the spring. I take OTC medications and they help somewhat. I’m not doing that to my youngest (who responds pretty well to OTC medications) until I have proof that the shots actually work in the long term. I am still pissed at that old school allergy doctor. My parents loved him and he was a very good friend of my grandfather’s. But I think he was injecting me with water. I suffered horribly back then and still do now.

jarvis

April 13th, 2011
9:10 am

I had allergy shots from 14 to 18.

Mine must have been triggered by hormones because I had no allergies prior to puberty, and have only allergic to animal dander since.

Anyway, on topic, I hated the shots. Not actually the shots themselves so much as the weekly appointment to go get them. Total burden on my mother as well until I turned 16 and could take myself to the weekly visit. Any solution that can be done at home better.

I do have one question though. While slowly increasing my dosages in the beginning to find the right level, I had a reaction to one of the shots. How would is a situation like that handled at home in Europe?

jarvis

April 13th, 2011
9:11 am

My apologies for my grammar. That was a disaster.

Techmom

April 13th, 2011
9:13 am

I did shots for about 4 years- from age 12-16 and my allergies are tons better than they used to be though I still sneeze and react to certain things; but I don’t have horrible allergy attacks like I did when I was younger. My mom has allergies 10 times worse than I do and she took shots longer than I did. I remember her calling in sick to work because it was like she was sick without the fever.

I would love to see a home-based system come to the market. Getting back and forth to the doctor is such a pain. I know my son could benefit from them but his allergies aren’t quite as bad as mine were so I’ve chosen not to go that route with him and just make sure he takes Claritin daily and he takes a couple Benedryl before mowing the grass.

TinaTeach

April 13th, 2011
9:23 am

My husband and MIL both have horrible allergies. When I lived in Oklahoma I had bad allergies too. However the move to Georgia seems to have solved my allergies.

My MIL did the shots and they didn’t work for her and my husband is on a cocktail of allergy meds. Although it turns out one of them is also a mild anti-depressant, which we immediately took him off of because those mess with him severely!

Both my Hubby and MIL think our 18 month old (as of today OMG!) has allergies. I’m in denial about it. I think he may have very mild allergies but nothing to the level Hubby and MIL think. We’ll see as he gets older but I just cannot imagine making him sit through shots that often. I think we’d have to manage with drops or pills. Hmmmmm, maybe my husband can try the drops?

pollenhater

April 13th, 2011
9:25 am

From what I’ve studied, the treatment can depend on what you’re allergic to. I’ve read that sublingual treatment can be good for one allergy, but researches have seen mixed results if people are allergic to multiple things. After talking to my doctor and as in my case, the majority of people have multiple allergens so this treatment may not work for everyone. When I first started allergy shots a year and a half ago, I was terrified. I was scared of the test to determine what I was allergic to and I was scared of the needles to treat it. But I’ve come to learn that the initial test was not bad and sometimes I don’t even feel the shots. It amazes me to see so many young kids in the waiting room with me and they are more concerned about what sticker they get afterwards than they are with the shots. I think a lot of it depends on the nurse-some hurt more than others and some are better with kids than others. I’ve come to determine that the first time or two the kids may be scared and cry, but then they realize there is really nothing to it. After sitting through 5 years of shots for my brother, and now for myself, I for one would take my kids for injections over sublingual treatment if the need arises.

TinaTeach

April 13th, 2011
9:26 am

T- my comment seems lost in the ether.

Stephen

April 13th, 2011
9:51 am

Old School Allergy “Ouch” SHOTs have been replaced by Under-the-tongue No Ouch Immuno-Allergy DROPs.

Any USA Dr. can order your Immuno-allergy DROPs which are Custom Formulated to neutralize your allergy Blood Test ID’ed offending allergens.

Suggest Drop Your Allergies .com

TnT's Mom

April 13th, 2011
9:59 am

My 13 yo has been doing shots for almost one year. he was allergic so several things, so we will probably be doing this for a few more years, but if it helps in the long, I am ok. He has gotten used to the shots and they are no biggie now. The biggest pain is getting to the Doc to get the shots. His older brother has been taking him, but he goes off to college this fall…

JOD

April 13th, 2011
10:23 am

I would use the shots for DD as a last resort. She has some minor issues, but I manage them with saline nasal spray. I grew up in GA and terrible allergies off and on until the last few years. I was even tested with the grid, and was found to have a LOT of allergies, usually leading to a sinus infection. Shaggy – I’m down to maybe 1 sinus infection a year (e.g. allergy outbreak) with a) Zyrtec at night, b) lots of local honey, c) Flonase nasal spray. Maybe your wife could try?

I remember hearing a long time ago that allergies change every 7 years – that could explain what a lot of us have seen.

JOD

April 13th, 2011
10:25 am

I think I left some stuff out… Flonase only when I feel something coming on and Zyrtec during spring and fall pollen seasons. Sorry.

JJ

April 13th, 2011
10:31 am

Oh there is some nastiness going on in the Get Schooled Blog today…….

EJsMom

April 13th, 2011
10:44 am

My 8 year old has horrible allergies. His allergist told him that he has about the worst allergies he’s seen, and that he is a prime candidate for the shots. I would love to do the sublingual drops, and I even hear that Emory’s Allergy Center is offering them, but I thought that since they were not FDA approved, insurance won’t cover them. So we went ahead and ordered the extract for the shots–does anyone who uses the sublingual drops have a problem with insurance covering them?? That sure would be preferable to 3 shots 2 times a week.

Bobby

April 13th, 2011
10:45 am

I’m allergic to needles.

@MomtoAlex&Max – there’s lots of proof that allergy shots work in the long term. You just need to spend a minute or two and look for it. Start at Kidshealth.org or Webmd.com.

jarvis

April 13th, 2011
10:46 am

@JJ, on the “Boobies” story?

I guess I missed that. Looks like the same old whining from teachers and others whining about teachers and teachers whining about being whined at. That blog is a complete drag in my opinion.

Bill

April 13th, 2011
10:54 am

I suffered from horrible allergies for years. My mom never wanted to take me to get the tests, because she had always heard how bad they were (this was in the 80’s). Finally around the age of 10 I got the tests and was basically allergic to every pollen that is out there. While the tests hurt some and going to get the shots was a hassle I am so thankful that I got them. Spring was miserable for me every year. I still take Allegra, but before shots I literally could not go outside for days in a row without ending up at the doctor with breathing and eye issues.

Do not hesitate. Take your kids to get tested and do the shots if that is recommended.

Angi

April 13th, 2011
11:00 am

my daughter (16) has been taking allergy shots for 2 years. She has two more years to go. She was taking 6 shots a week and now takes 3 shots a month. We have not had one sinus infection or doctor visit since we have been taking the shots. Gone are the days of Zyrtec,Flonase,Nasonex,Claritin and antibiotics for sinus infections ect. Living in Georgia it was so hard for her year round with grass,trees,weeds,Pollen molds ect. I am sticking with the shots because I know they work for her and she will agree it is worth it. We went to pet smart last year and she held a cat for the first time at 15 years old!! She did not respond to it at all and she would have not been able to even go to someones house who had a cat before. I have not seen the sublingal allergy meds advertised at the Atlanta Allergy Assoc. or anyone who uses that method.

SuwaneeMommy

April 13th, 2011
11:05 am

I took allergy shots as an adult and recommend them for anyone. After moving here, I developed allergies to almost every pollen in the area. After allergy shots, my allergy sypmtoms AND asthma symptoms have gone away. It’s incredible. The key is to find a respected allergist/pulmonologist who can accurately diagnose and prescribe the right course of treatment. We are so lucky to have Atlanta Allergy & Asthma Clinic here in the metro area. They are excellent physicians. My daughter will start allergy shots when she’s old enough. It’s a wonderful investment to make.

JJ

April 13th, 2011
11:09 am

Jarvis – no it’s about drivers who pass school buses. They are vicisous over there…..

shaggy

April 13th, 2011
11:39 am

JJ,

I tried to lighten them up a little.

JJ

April 13th, 2011
11:41 am

Shaggy,
That story was hilarous!!!!!! Thanks.

JJ

April 13th, 2011
11:42 am

Shaggy – I think you have a gift in story telling!

shaggy

April 13th, 2011
11:55 am

JJ,

More like a curse. That was a true story. Like I have said before, it is amazing me and my contemporaries made it into adulthood.

JJ

April 13th, 2011
12:31 pm

Shaggy – I know!!!! Me too……I was mowing the lawn yesterday and got a huge 4 inch gash in my calf courtesy of a broken flower pot. I thought I needed stitches, but I couldn’t see it very well. So I ran over to the neighbor’s, and she said no, we’ll just bandage it up real good. I thought to myself, I have had stitches at least 11 times, fallen off trampolines and bikes, had pins put in my elbow, scrapped my chin on the playground at school, and the bottom of a pool, and have had three surgeries. It’s amazing I’m still here too…..but I love life. And I have the scars to prove it. LOL

I guess it’s my inner “tomboy”…LOL

Rachel

April 13th, 2011
12:34 pm

Ugh – Allergies! :(

I have suffered with allergies now for about the past 10 years. Starting when I was 30, and like JJ, realized when I was mowing my lawn as a new homeowner. I never had allergies as a young child. However, my sister, who is 3 years younger, was born with deathly allergies and asthma. She spent lots of time in the hospital, even going to Duke in NC, and years with taking shots as a very young child, and now at 40 suffers very little. We have an older brother who suffers mildly every 5 years or so. So 3 different scenarios within the same family.

Both my kids suffer somewhat, but I would not consider it as severe as what I have. I don’t think you really know what the future holds as far as allergies go. It is odd at how it affects some and not others, etc. Very hard to perdict when or if you’ll ever really suffer.

I never have taken shots due to the time constraints. I was initally taking Rx meds, but now OTC seems to get me by. And NO to a neti pot for me, I have tried it atleast 5 times on Drs repeated requests and I get a sinus infection EVERYTIME. I don’t think the anatomy of my sinuses are neti pot friendly!

I have thought about allergy shots, but I have heard alot of folks having insurance issues or the cost being so high now. Based on this, I would think you would have to be a major allergy sufferer. We still have really good insurance, but this cost is still to high and my allergies have gotten better.

I jotted down info about the subligual drops – thanks for the tip! :)

JJ

April 13th, 2011
12:55 pm

TWG – Whatever happened to Jesse’s Girl? Haven’t seen her here in a very long time……

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SJ

April 13th, 2011
1:15 pm

My daughter has multiple allergies that result in chronic sinusitis and asthma issues. She started allergy shots at age 6, but developed a terrible needle phobia a year later. It was awful.

On advice from others, we started the sublingual drops with a respected allergist. It was NOT covered by insurance, so the drops cost $100 per month. They were easy, and she thought they tasted great. However, they were not effective for her. The allergies/symptoms actually got worse.

She has now been doing the shots again (and handling it fairly well) for about 5 months. She is 10.

Cammi317

April 13th, 2011
2:15 pm

I’ve never heard of these drops. My daughter is taking Zyrtec and Nasonex right now, but her allergist wants her to start getting the shots when school lets out. He never mentioned anything about drops. This sounds much more appealing because they told me she would have to get shots weekly for the first 6-9 months.

AngryRedMarsWoman

April 13th, 2011
2:20 pm

I took a Benadryl every morning for 25 years. About 3 months ago I finally said “enough” and started using one of those netti pots. Mixed results, so I am pretty much just forging ahead with a mind-over-matter mentality and am thankful for the days that it seems to work. I try to remember every night to put some salt in the pot and rinse my sinuses so I don’t hurt in the morning and sometimes I do another rinse in the AM before work.

tracey

April 13th, 2011
3:21 pm

my oldest had to do allergy shots. i did them at home. it was bad enough to pay over 200 dollars for the vial, and then have to pay 20 bucks a pop to have the shots, and he was doing 2 and 3 times a week. i saw mixed results. he coughed less, but his excema didn’t really get any better. now that he is 16, his asthma is a lot better and his skin is a little bit better. so who knows?

catlady

April 13th, 2011
5:11 pm

The study was comparing kids who get allergy shots to “similar kids”. In what ways were they similar?

I have heard that the blood test for allergy is not reliable. I would have to wonder about the under the tongue allergy drops.

I am terribly allergic to several grass and trees pollen. I mean, 4+++. However, I have never taken the allergy shots–too expensive, and inconvenient where I live, and no guarantee it will ever be effective enough for me to be able to tell. However, as bad as my asthma is getting, and the allergies are becoming more year-round, I may change my mind.

djm_NC

April 13th, 2011
9:01 pm

i wonder if they have shots for shell fish allergies??

TCH

April 14th, 2011
9:23 am

I had terrible allergies when I was younger, but instead of the red eyes, runny nose symptoms, intense headaches were my burden. My dad made the connection and took me to an ENT, and after the tests for environmental allergies came back positive, I received two shots once a week. I took these shots from age 14 until my first year of college. The nurses on the college campus were leaving marks on my arms, so I stopped the shots out of vanity, not because the allergans didn’t bother me anymore.

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penguinmom

April 15th, 2011
4:32 pm

I took allergy shots as a kid and never found it that big of a deal. It’s a fairly small shot not like a booster shot. It was way better than the steroid shot I would get if I ended up going into full-blown asthma. I don’t know why we specifically stopped getting shots but we did move and my allergies got less because I was in a different state.

As an adult I took allergy shots for about a year, before and during my first pregnancy. They did help but I wasn’t consistent enough about going each week so I didn’t ever really get up to the highest maintenance level.

My nephew had a yellow jacket allergy. He took allergy shots for a couple of years and is now free from having to carry an epee pen. He has since been stung and didn’t have any reaction at all.

@djm_NC – I don’t think they have allergy shots for food allergies. At least I’ve never heard of anyone getting shots for anything like that. Perhaps the reaction is too severe and they can’t risk giving you even a watered down amount.

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Alejandra Palafox

April 17th, 2011
3:03 pm

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