Understanding Allergies & Their Treatments

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With spring allergy rapidly approaching, it is a perfect time to understand allergy shots (immunotherapy) and who may be a good candidate. Check out these commons questions parents ask about allergies and treatments:

Q: Why Do People Have Allergies?

A: Allergies are the result of a chain reaction that starts in the immune system. For seasonal allergies, the immune system identifies pollen as an invader and overreacts by producing antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies travel to cells and release various chemicals (including histamine), causing the allergic reaction.

Q: Why Would Anyone Choose Allergy Shots (Immunotherapy)?

A: Most people who suffer from allergies can treat them seasonally with over the counter (OTC) medications and deal with the nuisance symptoms without ever seeing a doctor. But sometimes it’s not that simple. For many people (both children and adults), the symptoms are intolerable, life-altering, and only somewhat responsive to medications. For others, they may need to take multiple medications year-round, which can become burdensome and expensive.

So, before a decision is made to begin allergy shots, one must consider:

• Length of allergy season and the severity of symptoms
• Whether medications and/or changes to the environment can control the symptoms
• The desire to avoid long-term medication use
• Time available and knowledge of being in the same geographic area for the foreseeable future (the course is approximately 3- to 5-years)
• Cost depending on the region and insurance coverage

Immunotherapy for children is effective and well-tolerated. It may even prevent the onset of new allergen sensitivities or the progression to asthma.

Q: How Do Allergy Shots Work?

A: Allergy shots are similar to vaccines where the immune system responds to injected amounts of a particular allergen given in increasing doses. The goal is that over time, the body develops resistance and tolerance. Shots can lead to decreased, minimal, or in the ideal patient, no allergy symptoms.

Q: How Do I know if Allergy Shots Are Right for My Child?

A. Take this quiz to find out if allergen immunotherapy is right for you or your family. You can also call the Pediatric Lung & Allergy Center’s office for a consult with a board-certified pediatric Allergist. During your visit, you can expect an accurate diagnosis, a treatment plan that works, and educational information to help your child feel better.

Fairfax Neonatal Associates’ Pediatric Lung & Allergy Center (PLAC) provides comprehensive care to infants and children needing allergy and immunology diagnoses and treatment. PLAC pediatric specialists provide a wide range of evaluations and testing for allergens, immune and lung function, oral food challenges, and more — all leading to individualized treatment plans with your child’s pediatrician.

Connect with Fairfax Neonatal Associates’ Pediatric Lung & Allergy Center online or by calling one of the Center locations, including Leesburg, VA (703-289-1410), and Fairfax, VA (703-289-1410).

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