Is Allergy Shot Safe For Children?

Jay E. Slater, M.D., a pediatric allergist at the FDA, says that children who don’t respond to either OTC or prescription medications, or who suffer from frequent complications of allergic rhinitis, may be candidates for allergen immunotherapy—commonly known as allergy shots.

After allergy testing, typically by skin testing to detect what allergens your child may react to, a health care professional injects the child with “extracts”—small amounts of the allergens that trigger a reaction. The doses are gradually increased so that the body builds up immunity to these allergens. Allergen extracts are manufactured from natural substances, such as pollens, insect venoms, animal hair, and foods. More than 1,200 extracts are licensed by the FDA.

In 2014, the FDA approved three new immunotherapy products that are taken under the tongue for treatment of hay fever caused by certain pollens, two of them for use in children. All of them are intended for daily use, before and during the pollen season. They are not meant for immediate symptom relief. Although they are intended for at-home use, these are prescription medications, and first doses are taken in the presence of a health care provider. The products are Oralair, Grastek, and Ragwitek (which is approved for use in adults only).

In 2017, the FDA approved Odactra, the first immunotherapy product administered under the tongue for treatment of house dust mite induced allergic rhinitis (nasal inflammation) with or without conjunctivitis (eye inflammation). Odactra is approved for use only in adults.

“Allergy shots are never appropriate for food allergies,” adds Slater, “but it’s common to use extracts to test for food allergies so the child can avoid those foods.”

“In the last 20 years, there has been a remarkable transformation in allergy treatments,” says Slater. “Kids used to be miserable for months out of the year, and drugs made them incredibly sleepy. But today’s products offer proven approaches for relief of seasonal allergy symptoms.”

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.