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Did you know that approximately 50 million Americans have some type of allergy? From pet dander to pollen and even substances as common as dust, the potential for allergies exists everywhere. Allergic disorders typically appear in infants and children, and, as the most commonly reported chronic condition in this age group, allergies affect more than 40 percent of kids. Today, it’s relatively simple to determine if your child is allergic to something specific and how he or she may be treated for that allergy to minimize discomfort.

Causes of Allergies

Allergies may affect children in the spring, but it’s not unusual for kids to experience seasonal allergy symptoms any time throughout the year. Allergens, or the things that cause an allergic reaction, can be more prevalent during different seasons. For example, tree pollen can cause symptoms in the spring, while weed pollen may be more active during its peak pollination season in the fall.

It’s important to be aware that allergies can occur anytime children come in contact with allergens such as:

Allergy Symptoms

Symptoms of an allergic reaction can present themselves as itchy or red eyes and a runny nose, rashes, eczema, or hives.

Symptoms can be bothersome to children and may affect sleep, daytime functioning, productivity in school, and general quality of life.

What to Do If You Child Is Experiencing Symptoms

If your child is experiencing any of the symptoms associated with an allergic reaction after contact with a potential allergen, you should contact his or her pediatrician.

In some cases, especially those involving medications, foods, dyes, latex, or insect stings, severe allergic reactions, known as anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock, can occur within seconds or hours of exposure. During one of these severe reactions, the child’s throat will typically swell and breathing will become difficult. Other symptoms can include hives, nausea or vomiting, stomach pain, and irregular heartbeat or blood pressure. Anaphylaxis is a potentially fatal emergency situation and you and your child should seek medical attention immediately.

Obtaining a Diagnosis

Your child’s pediatrician may refer you to an allergy specialist for diagnostic testing, which can include skin tests, blood tests, challenge tests, or nasal smears.

Treatment Options for Children

Your child’s treatment will be determined based on several factors, including age, medical history, severity of allergies, and his or her tolerance for medications or procedures.

Avoidance is typically the most effective way to treat allergies, and it is suggested that your child stays away from anything that causes an allergic reaction as much as possible.

Immunotherapy, or allergy shots, is also very effective. The shots are made up of a mixture of allergens, called an allergy extract, that affect your child. Medications can help relieve symptoms, as well. Medicinal treatments may include antihistamines in the form of tablets, capsules, liquid, or injections.

In conjunction with these treatments, you can also make modifications to ease your child’s symptoms. Make sure the vents and filters in your house are free of dust, remove plants or rugs from your child’s room since they can hold allergens, and keep your indoor humidity below 35 percent.

If you think your child may be suffering from allergies, talk to his or her doctor, or visit the UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh’s Division of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology webpage for more information.