Allergies arise when the body’s immune system overreacts to a substance such as food, pollen, dust or medicines, otherwise known as allergens. In people with allergies, the immune system perceives these allergens to be harmful invaders, and in order to protect the body, releases chemicals into the bloodstream which causes the allergic reaction. Whenever the body is exposed to these allergens, the allergic reaction will be triggered again. Children can inherit the tendency of having allergies from their parents, but typically not a particular allergy. And just because a parent has allergies, it does not necessarily mean a child will have them, and vice versa.
Allergy symptoms can be as harmless as itchy eyes, a stuffy nose and a rash, or as severe as throat tightening, vomiting, difficulty breathing and passing out. The most severe type of allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis and can be life threatening. Although anaphylaxis is very rare, doctors will prescribe an epinephrine auto-injector for any patients with severe allergies (like those to food, medicine or insect venom) to carry with them at all times.
Allergies can be diagnosed with a simple skin test which takes about 15 minutes to perform. Your doctor would likely recommend testing for possible food allergies if your child develops a rash or vomits after eating a particular food. But you may also consider allergy testing if your child has ongoing cold symptoms, or seems to get a cold at the same time each year.
In most cases, allergy symptoms can be managed by avoiding the allergens, or with over-the-counter antihistamines, eye drops or nasal sprays. To help kids avoid airborne allergens, you can avoid carpets, rugs and heavy drapes that all collect dust, and avoid cleaning while your child is in the room. For those with a pollen allergy, keep the windows closed when pollen is at its peak, and make sure to change their clothes as soon as they come back inside. Seasonal and environmental allergies can also be treated with immunotherapy to help desensitize a person to the allergen. Traditionally, immunotherapy only came in the form of injections, but now there is also oral immunotherapy which can be given painlessly at home. For food allergies, the best treatment is strict avoidance of the allergen. And remember, always read food labels to make sure there are no hidden ingredients!
Riverside Pediatrics is pleased to offer painless allergy testing and oral immunotherapy treatment.