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Treating Allergies in Children

by Tom Seman MD FAAP October 8th, 2013 | Children's Health, Pediatrician on Call
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childMy daughter is experiencing a lot of issues with seasonal allergies. What is the best treatment to give her relief?

Fall is here and school has started. Unfortunately so is ragweed, the number one allergen in the fall. For most  people allergies are seasonal and typically in the spring and early summer. However, allergies can be around throughout the entire year and should be taken care of to decrease worsening symptoms and other side effects from them. So how do we take care of them.

First of all we need to know what a child is allergic to (the allergen). For the majority of children with allergies, dust, dust mites and animal dander are the culprits. Of course, now there also seems to be an increase in peanut allergies too. So how do you know? Having a reaction when you touch or eat something is fairly obvious. For most airborne allergens though, knowing what is the offending agent may be more difficult. A parent should keep track of when a child has the allergy symptoms or exacerbation’s. This information will give a specialist an idea of what plants and other items are involved. This can often be confirmed by either skin testing if the child is old enough or via a blood draw. Once the annoying allergens are known, they can be treated in a combination of ways.

The major treatment plan for allergies is:

1.) Avoidance if possible. This seems obvious but sometimes makes  for a tough decision. Contact irritants such as plants, latex, creams etc.,are easy. remove them from the house and the problem is gone. Know what they are and avoid elsewhere and the child will never have a problem.

2.) Limit exposure to the allergen. What if the family dog, cat, gerbil or another pet is the problem? The family has two options namely to remove the pet from the house or limit the exposure. There are other unavoidable allergens besides pets. These include indoor/outdoor molds, dust, dust mites and pollen. One can limit exposure by isolating the allergen as much as possible. Keep the animal out of the child’s bedroom. If possible get an air purifier and keep the door to the room closed. This will keep her room clear iof animal dander as well as other airborne allergens such as molds and pollen’s. If dust or dust mites are the issue, use pillow and mattress covers which will keep the past amounts of dust and mites away and allow any new accumulations to be washed when cleaned in the washing machine. These actions should diminish the symptoms associated with the allergies. But what if symptom are still too bothersome?

3.) Treat the symptoms. There are a number of oral medications-antihistamines that help with the symptoms. Unfortunately they do not eliminate them completely but can certainly make a  big difference. Like everything else there are side effects associated  with them. The major issue is sleepiness when taking these medications although a small percentage of people can get very irritable and active. Other symptoms may be dry mouth and thicker secretions. In boys they may have a hard time urinating, but this is rare. There are also prescription medications that can help. sometimes these are nasal sprays and some are oral steroids. These prescription medications may also have side effects. Talk to your child’s pediatrician to see if they are for you. But what of the symptoms are still bad?

4.) Immunotherapy, aka-Allergy Shots. These are usually the last resort for most people since needles are scary! The purpose of the injections is to actually place a small amount of what the child is allergic to under the skin. The goal is to get the body to ignore whatever the allergen is and no longer react to it. this is a specialized treatment that should only be done under the supervision of the Allergy specialist. As with all treatments there are side effects and risks so ask the child’s pediatrician before initiating therapy.

Anyone who suffers from allergies knows that it is not fun, but, your child does not have to suffer in silence.  Ask your child’s healthcare provider for help.

Good luck,

Dr. Tom

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All health and medical information is provided for educational purposes and is not meant to replace the medical advice or treatment of your healthcare professional.