Family Health, Your Health Tamar Raucher | 2 years ago

ALLERGY ABC's Recognizing and Dealing With Allergies

For the nearly 50 million Americans, including millions of kids, who have an allergy, the body’s immune system treats a particular substance – called an allergen – as an invader. Causing discomfort that ranges from a mild headache and itchy eyes, to upset tummy or even a severe respiratory problems.

The allergy-inducing culprits can be pollen from budding trees and green lawns, household dust, pet dander or types of foods, including nuts, milk products and shellfish. Finding out what your child is allergic to and setting the course for the best treatment plan is key in dealing with allergies, whether seasonal or food related. “The initial management for allergies is avoidance of the allergen,” says Kasey W. Scannell, MD, with Charlotte Pediatric Clinic, part of Carolinas HealthCare System. “Keeping an allergy sufferer away from the allergen can be pretty difficult for active children,” she adds. Recognizing signs of seasonal allergies means paying close attention to how your children react when they’ve been active outside.

IN FULL BLOOM

Sometimes called “hay fever” or seasonal allergic rhinitis, seasonal allergies occur during certain times of the year when outdoor molds release their spores, and trees, grasses and weeds release tiny pollen particles into the air to fertilize other plants. The immune systems of people who are allergic to mold spores or pollen treat these particles as invaders and release chemicals, including histamine, into the bloodstream to defend against them. It’s the release of these chemicals that causes allergy symptoms. Dr. Scannell advises keeping a close eye on children with seasonal allergies, because they can lead to other health issues. “Seasonal allergies may put your child at risk for the development of other problems, such as sinus infections or ear infections,” she says. Seasonal allergies can also worsen the symptoms and frequency of asthma attacks. Talk to your doctor if you notice seasonal flare-ups of sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion and itchy, watery eyes. With effective over-the-counter medications now readily available, allergies are often managed with careful attention to symptoms and advice from your doctor on which medications might be best for your little one.

“Over-the-counter antihistamines can be very helpful in the general management of allergy symptoms,” Dr. Scannell says. “However, if your child’s symptoms persist, they may benefit from a more focused treatment with a nose spray or eye drops.”

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Satisfying the varying tastes of kids can be trying, but accommodating a food allergy presents its own challenges. Children with food allergies often outgrow them, but not always. For example, most kids who are allergic to milk, eggs, wheat or soy outgrow their allergies by the time they’re five. But only about 20 percent of people with a peanut allergy and about 10 percent of kids with a tree nut allergy outgrow those. Fish and shellfish allergies usually develop later in life. According to Ekta B. Shah, MD, pediatric allergist at Charlotte Medical Clinic, also part of Carolinas HealthCare System, the only way to prevent a serious allergic reaction to a food is to avoid the food altogether.

“Always read product labels carefully before purchasing and consuming any items,” Dr. Shah says. “Educate any of your child’s caregivers – including babysitters, extended family members and school staff – regarding your child’s food allergies and how to read ingredient labels.”

When dealing with food allergies, planning ahead is very important. Avoid restaurants that may be considered high risk for a particular food allergy (for example, Asian restaurants if your child is peanut or tree nut allergic, and seafood restaurants if your child is shellfish allergic). Ask what is in the dish that you are ordering and how it is prepared. An allergic reaction to food can affect the skin, the gastrointestinal tract, the respiratory tract and, in the most serious cases, the cardiovascular system. Reactions can range from mild to severe, including the potentially life-threatening condition known as anaphylaxis. According to Dr. Shah, signs of anaphylaxis include difficulty breathing; a drop in blood pressure (in which case, the person looks pale, has a weak pulse, shows confusion or loses consciousness); a rash; swollen lips or tongue; throat tightness or difficulty swallowing; or gastrointestinal symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea or cramping. If you suspect anaphylaxis, administer auto-injectable epinephrine immediately, and call 911.  

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