FRIDAY, Nov. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Women who get allergy shots
before or during pregnancy may lower the odds that their offspring
will suffer from asthma, food allergies or eczema, a preliminary
new study suggests.
Reviewing anonymous surveys from 143 mothers who had received
allergy shots -- also known as immunotherapy -- researchers from
the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis found
a 10 percent to 12 percent reduced rate of allergies among the
"It was our hope that allergy shots would help, and I wasn't surprised," said study author Dr. Jay Lieberman, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the center. But, he added, "I wouldn't say this [research] is the end-all and be-all. We would love better data. This provides some background data to say this should be looked into further."
Lieberman said the small number of participants lowered the
impact of the results. "A drop of 10 percent to 12 percent [in
children's allergy rates] is meaningful, but is not statistically
significant," he said. "But I would call that clinically
The study is scheduled to be presented Friday at the annual
meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
(ACAAI) in Baltimore. Research presented at scientific meetings
typically has not been peer reviewed or published, and results are
More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies of all
types, including seasonal and food allergies, as well as asthma and
the skin condition eczema. If both parents in a family suffer from
allergies, their offspring have a 75 percent chance of following
suit, according to the ACAAI.
Those odds drop to 30 percent to 40 percent for children with
only one allergic parent, and up to 15 percent for children with no
Although allergies have no cure, allergy shots -- monthly
injections for three to five years once a maintenance dose is
achieved -- have been shown to control and sometimes eliminate
Taking into account the children's breast-feeding status, gender
and other factors that affect allergy risk, Lieberman and his team
found that kids whose mothers received allergy shots during
pregnancy were 12 percent less likely to also develop
Those odds changed to 10 percent less likely for those whose
mothers received allergy shots before pregnancy.
Of children whose mothers did not receive allergy shots, 62
percent were diagnosed with allergies compared with 52 percent of
those whose mothers had the shots.
Dr. David Bernstein, a professor of medicine and environmental
health at the University of Cincinnati, said it makes sense that
the offspring of pregnant mothers receiving allergy shots might
later gain some immunity from allergies.
"I think this research raises interesting possibilities," said Bernstein, who was not involved in the study. "We're trying to figure out why the instances of allergies have increased so dramatically and what to do about it. So it's interesting to speculate what can happen in utero when pregnant women are already receiving immunotherapy."
There appears to be no drawbacks for fetuses exposed to allergy
shots during their mothers' pregnancy, study author Lieberman said.
Current clinical recommendations suggest pregnant women continue
receiving the same injection dose as before pregnancy but not
increase it, he said.
Lieberman has not planned a larger study to confirm the
findings, but hopes other researchers will follow up on the
"I think a real-world trial that follows women ... for 10 or 20 years would be feasible and ideal," he said.
Learn more about allergies from the
U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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