Did you know approximately 50 million Americans have some type of allergy? 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.
Things that can cause an allergic reaction, known as allergens, include:
- Poison Ivy or Oak
Symptoms of an allergic reaction can present themselves as itchy or red eyes and a runny nose, rashes, eczema, or hives.
“Eye itching and redness are among the most bothersome symptoms for patients,” says Todd Green, MD, Division of Pulmonary Medicine, Allergy & Immunology at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, “These symptoms may not seem significant to those not experiencing them, but they can be very bothersome to the point where they can affect sleep, daytime functioning, productivity in school, and general quality of life.”
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.
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.
“We aim to use the minimum amount of medications necessary to achieve maximum relief of symptoms and improve quality of life,” says Dr. Green. “There are a lot of options available that effectively reduce symptoms.”
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. Dr. Green suggests making sure the vents and filters in your house are free of dust, removing plants or rugs from your child’s room since they can hold allergens, and keeping your indoor humidity below 35 percent.
“As allergists, our primary goal is to help our patients lead full, active lives,” he says.