Children with grass pollen allergy are prone to develop asthma. A new study shows that specific grass pollen immunotherapy appears to be a safe and effective treatment for children with seasonal allergic asthma who react to grass pollen, doctors report in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
“We currently have no curative therapy for asthma - specific immunotherapy has the potential for curing allergic asthma,” lead author Dr. Graham Roberts told Reuters Health. “This study demonstrates that it is both efficacious and safe within a pediatric population.”
Several reports have shown specific immunotherapy to safely reduce the symptoms of hayfever in children and adults, but its role as treatment for allergic asthma is less clear. Conflicting results have been obtained in adults and there are few data regarding specific immunotherapy for grass pollen-induced asthma in children.
Roberts, from the Southampton University Hospital NHS Trust in the UK, and colleagues assessed the benefits of grass pollen immunotherapy over two pollen seasons in 35 children with grass pollen-induced asthma.
Grass pollen immunotherapy was given by injection in increasing doses over eight visits, which took several weeks to complete. The children, who were between the ages of 3 and 16 years, were observed for 60 minutes after each injection.
Compared with placebo, specific immunotherapy led to a significant reduction in asthma symptoms and medication use during the second pollen season, the authors state. Moreover, specific immunotherapy appeared to reduce skin, eye, and airway symptoms related to grass pollen exposure.
Grass pollen immunotherapy appeared to be well tolerated with no serious side effects observed and no treatment withdrawals due to side effects, the investigators point out.
Roberts emphasized that appropriate patient selection is critical for specific immunotherapy to work.
“Good candidates have summer asthma and often hayfever. They should have a positive skin prick test to the grass pollen allergen and positive serum specific IgE to it,” he said. Importantly, the children should have no significant asthma symptoms from other allergens or unstable asthma during the winter when treatment tapering occurs.
SOURCE: Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, February 2006.
Revision date: July 3, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD