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Pediatric Immunosuppression

Immunosuppression turns down the body’s immune system to keep it from causing harm. Children’s Health has experts in immune system diseases who work to ensure that the treatment is safe – and children can grow up healthy and active.

What is Pediatric Immunosuppression?

Immunosuppression is a process of giving children medication to suppress their immune system. The medication can be given by mouth (orally), as a a shot or through an intravenous line (IV).

We may recommend immunosuppression when a child has an autoimmune disease, which means their immune system attacks a healthy part of their body by mistake. We also use it for kids with organ transplants, to keep their body from rejecting the new organ.

For autoimmune diseases, immunosuppression can be a short-term treatment, to stop an acute attack of the immune system. Immunosuppression can also be a long-term treatment, to keep attacks from happening in the future. This is more common for certain diseases, like neuromyelitis optica and multiple sclerosis.

What are the benefits of Pediatric Immunosuppression?

When the immune system attacks healthy cells, it can cause damage and that damage can cause a variety of symptoms. Short-term immunosuppression stops this process, reducing inflammation and allowing the body to heal. Long-term immunosuppression prevents the immune system from launching future attacks, allowing a child’s muscles, organs and other body parts to grow and stay healthy.

What are the side effects of Pediatric Immunosuppression?

Side effects depend on the medication your child is given to lower their immune system. Examples include nausea, itchiness and shortness of breath. Talk to your child’s doctor about the possible side effects for the type of medication your child will receive.

What are the risks of Pediatric Immunosuppression?

Each medication we use for immunosuppression has risks. The risk of getting sick because of a lowered immune system is usually pretty low. The most common concern is that a reduced immune system will increase your child’s risk of infection. Talk to your child’s doctor about their medication and any risks associated with it.

What to expect with Pediatric Immunosuppression?

Before your child receives treatment, we run blood tests to make sure their medication won’t harm them. Immunosuppressive medications for acute attacks are usually given by IV, which can take several hours. Children needing long-term treatment may take a daily medication, have occasional doses or receive treatments several times a year.

What questions should I ask my provider about Pediatric Immunosuppression?

It’s a good idea to ask the team treating your child about their plan of care, including:

  • What blood tests are necessary before my child is treated?
  • How do you monitor patients for side effects or complications?
  • Are any vaccinations necessary before receiving treatment?

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can my child go to school if they are immunosuppressed?

    Usually, yes. Your child’s immune system will be weaker than normal, but not so much that we recommend avoiding school or activities. Talk to your child’s doctor about the specific risks for your child and what precautions are necessary.

  • Are their alternatives to immunosuppression?

    In most cases, we use immunosuppression after other treatments like steroids, IVIG or plasmapheresis fail to improve a child’s condition. Although we try other treatments first, immunosuppression is still very safe. We take special care to make sure it’s right for you and your child.