COLUMBIA - Grayson Fick, a second grader, loves to play outside, but a few years ago that wasn't easy because of his allergies and asthma.
"They were really bad, and I kept coughing and sneezing," said Grayson.
"Eventually it would turn into some sinus infections and then possibly go into his chest and cause wheezing and shortness of breath where we'd have to start breathing treatments," his mother, Adrienne Fick, said.
When he was only 5-years-old, Grayson's mom decided to try allergy shots. Once a week he gets with the hope that he will eventually build immunity and get rid of those allergies.
"We are deliberately injecting tiny amounts of what they're allergic to," said Grayson's allergist, Dr. Mark Vandewalker. "Protein derivatives of the different pollens, molds, dusts, or animal dander to which they have reacted. Little by little, week by week, month by month building up that allergy mix, the patient becomes less and less sensitive."
So far it's helped Grayson.
"We only have maybe 1 to 2 asthma flare-ups a year, which is much better then it used to be. His symptoms are a lot less severe," Fick said.
Grayson isn't the youngest patient at Allergy and Asthma Consultants.
"We have children as young as 18-24 months that have begun allergy shots. It's unusual, but it may be the best treatment for them," said Vandewalker.
He added that allergies in kids have become an epidemic in the last few decades, "Thirty years ago severe allergies in young children were actually pretty rare, but now it's almost every day I have a referral to evaluate a pre-school child with severe allergies."
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology warns against treating kids under the age of 5 with allergy shots. It says young kids are not at a higher risk of a bad reaction, but they may not be able to verbalize any problems.
However, Vandewalker thinks allergy shots may actually be most effective in the youngest patients, "The earlier you start a child on shots the better opportunity to change their allergic condition and prevent long term complications."
Dr. Vandewalker says while he doesn't know for sure why so many more kids are suffering from allergies he thinks it might have something to do with how clean things are these days. Disinfecting everything can prevent illness, but it may also mean kids don't build up as many antibodies causing more allergies.