Expecting mothers are required to make a lot of special considerations when it comes to protecting their - and their baby's - health. During the fall and winter months, most moms-to-be are coached to receive a flu shot by their physicians, to help prevent any negative effects the influenza virus might have on their pregnancy. Another popular vaccination most pregnant moms are encouraged to receive is the Tdap shot, which wards against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough). Now, new research presented at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology indicates that women who receive allergy shots while pregnant may help decrease their baby's risk of developing allergies.
Allergies are often a family matter
These allergy shots, also called immunotherapy, typically help those who experience serious allergies to substances such as dust, mold, pet dander as well as seasonal triggers like ragweed and pollen. Individuals who are affected by allergies have a greater risk of passing those allergies on to their babies. According to the ACAAI, children whose parents both have allergies have a 75 percent chance of developing those same allergies themselves. If only one parent is allergic, or a close relative, the child has a 30 to 40 percent chance of developing allergies. Even if neither parent has exhibited symptoms of allergies, children still stand a 10 to 15 percent chance of developing them.
Currently, approximately 50 million Americans have been diagnosed with allergies. While there is no cure for allergies, many strides have been made in reducing their effects by controlling responses and exposure to triggers. Now, however, medical researchers may have found a way to prevent allergies from developing in the first place.
"Our research found trends suggesting women receiving allergy shots either before or during pregnancy reduced their child's chances of having asthma, food allergies, or eczema," said allergist and ACAAI member Jay Lieberman, M.D. "Prior studies have suggested that mothers can pass protective factors to their fetus that may decrease their child's chance of developing allergic disease, and these protective factors are increased with allergy immunotherapy."
Controlling allergies in children
According to Lieberman, more study is needed to determine whether the development of allergies really can be prevented with immunotherapy shots during or just before pregnancy, however, he indicated that early analysis looked promising.
In most cases, doctors advise limiting exposure to allergens as the first course of action. Incorporating items like air purifiers and hypoallergenic linens can help stave off symptoms that result from environmental allergens, as can ensuring that car windows are rolled up when driving and showering after arriving home.
Other courses of treatment include oral or nasal medications such as antihistamines, corticosteroids, decongestants, cromolyn sodium and leukotriene modifiers, according to the Mayo Clinic.
As a general rule, immunotherapy is only prescribed as a last resort if limited exposure and other medical treatment options prove to be ineffective. Its effects are often delayed, though some patients say they feel better soon after receiving the shots. Usually, patients will receive a series of shots until they reach their maintenance point, the point at which the shots take maximum effect and allergy symptoms are controlled or eliminated. Then, patients will receive monthly shots for an extended period of time. However, in the case of pregnancy, many doctors may be willing to make an exception if the ACAAI research proves to be true.
Are you excited to learn there may be a way to prevent allergies in children? Let us know what you think in the comments section.