How Allergy Shots Can Help Control Increasing Asthma Rates
- Asthma, a chronic inflammation of the lung airways characterized by wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath, affects 17 million Americans.
- Since 1980, asthma has increased by 160 percent among children age 4 and younger.
- Approximately 80 percent of all asthma in children and half of all asthma in adults is caused by allergy.
- An international conference, "Immunotherapy in Allergic Asthma," hosted by the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) in 2000, concluded that immunotherapy (allergy shots) is an effective treatment for allergic asthma, and can prevent the onset of asthma in children with allergic rhinitis.
- The Preventive Allergy Treatment (PAT) study, published in the February 2002 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI), confirms the ACAAI conference conclusions. The study documents that immunotherapy reduces the risk of developing asthma and reduces lung airway inflammation in children with hay fever, a condition that predisposes them to asthma.
- The study followed 205 patients ages 6 to 14 from six pediatric centers in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Austria and Germany; a total of 191 patients completed the study. The children all had proven allergies to birch or grass pollen or both. Before the start of immunotherapy, more than 20 percent (40 of 191) children had asthma symptoms during pollen season, even though they initially reported no history of asthma; 151 children had no asthma symptoms.
- The children were randomly assigned to receive either medications alone to control their symptoms or those medications and allergy shots that treated their allergic condition; they were tested for symptoms of asthma after three years of treatment. Among those who had no asthma prior to treatment, only 24 percent of those receiving allergy shots (19 of 79) developed asthma, compared to 44 percent of those who did not receive shots (32 of 72).
The ACAAI is a professional medical organization comprising 4,200 allergists-immunologists and related health professionals dedicated to the clinical practice of allergy, asthma and immunology through education and research to promote the highest quality patient care.