9-year-old finds relief through allergy immunotherapy shots

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HOLLADAY— Spring means warmer weather, beautiful flowers, and sometimes, lots of sneezing and coughing. If you're tired of taking antihistamines for allergies, there's a treatment option for that.

Kloe is just about the friendliest 9-year-old girl around. “What kind is she?” she asked a dog owner at the park. “She is so cute!”

She loves dogs, but sadly, she is allergic to them. “I start sneezing and puff up,” Kloe said.

Her mom, Kelli, who asked not to use her last name, had to remind her to keep her distance. “You're gonna be miserable,” Kloe's mom said, which was a big disappointment for her.

Dogs aren’t the only thing that makes Kloe itch. She is also allergic to pollen and grass. "Oh, and tree nuts — tree nuts suck," she said. “They make my throat tingle.”

"Every time we would go anywhere, we had to have a water bottle with us because she was coughing so hard," Kelli explained.

Kloe said her allergies made her feel constantly drowsy. Intermountain Healthcare’s Dr. Libby Kelly, an allergist at the Holladay Clinic, said Kloe looked fatigued when she came into her office.

"Allergies that are severe can impair your productivity at work and concentration in school," Kelly explained.

Four years ago, Kelly started Kloe on allergy immunotherapy shots. The shot consists of the exact allergens an individual is allergic to.

"We're kind of training the immune system to stop seeing that pollen as a danger signal, or that animal dander is a danger signal that we need to mount a response to,” Kelly said. “Our immune system needs to mount a response to a virus or bacteria, but it's inappropriate for it to mount a response to an allergen."

Kelly said repeated exposures of an allergen can help calm down the immune system/ She added that immunotherapy can be really helpful for someone who is relying on daily allergy medications to manage their symptoms. Kelly said allergy symptoms often mimic the symptoms of a cold, including coughing, sneezing, red or swollen eyes or nose, a dripping nose or a tight feeling in your throat.

Intermountain Healthcare's Dr. Libby Kelly started Kloe on allergy immunotherapy shots about four years ago. (Photo: KSL TV)
Intermountain Healthcare's Dr. Libby Kelly started Kloe on allergy immunotherapy shots about four years ago. (Photo: KSL TV)

If an individual has a high fever, it’s likely an infection rather than allergies, although allergies can cause some low-grade fevers, Kelly explained. She said itching is also a typical sign of an allergic reaction.

“If you're itching in the back of your throat, you've got deep itch inside your ears (or) eyes, that's much more likely to be allergy than an infection,” Kelly explained.

Initially, the idea of getting a shot scared Kloe, but she got used to it pretty quickly. "When I figured out it was just like three flu shots, I'm like, 'It's just gonna be fine!'" she said.

Now Kloe can pet dogs and tumble in the grass carefree. She and her mom said they are very grateful.

“Having that peace of mind of, 'Oh, I can send her over to the neighbors with the dogs and she'll be fine.' It's awesome," Kelli said.

Kelly said it typically takes about six to 12 months before somebody starts to feel the benefit of allergy immunotherapy. She recommends people get regular shots for three to five years, which typically gives a patient about 10 to 15 years of significant relief.

Although some people like to start allergy shots in the fall when the allergens have died down in the atmosphere a little, Kelly said a patient could start immunotherapy any time of the year.

In Utah, tree allergies typically last from March through May, grass allergies are high from May through September, and weed allergies are high from July through November.

Kelly said the cost of immunotherapy depends on the patient’s insurance company; however, the cost of allergy shots has been shown to be less expensive over time than allergy medications.


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