Allergies in Children and Treatment Options
With spring just around the corner, allergy season will soon be upon us. Our kids will be spending more time outdoors as soon as the temperatures go up. It is important that parents are aware of outdoor allergies, their signs, symptoms and treatment options.
Outdoor allergies, also sometimes referred to as seasonal allergic rhinitis, or hay fever can occur when allergens that are commonly found outdoors such as pollen, grass, and mold spores are inhaled into the nose and the lungs causing allergic reactions. Pollen and mold are the most common triggers for outdoor allergies.
How Allergies Effect Children
An allergic reaction is the body’s immune system response to certain elements in the environment. Children with allergies tend to react to certain substances that may not cause reactions to other children.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation, approximately 20 percent of Americans, one in every five adults and children, have allergies which includes allergic asthma. About 80 percent of children with asthma have allergies and food allergies occur in 8 percent of children younger than age six.
Children are usually more vulnerable to allergies than adults. Food, dust mites, animal dander and pollen are the most common childhood allergies. These substances can cause the child to have rhinitis, asthma and eczema.
Genetics and Allergies
A child has a 75 percent chance of having allergies if both parents have allergies and only a 50 percent chance if only one parent suffers from allergies.
When the body releases special antibodies called immunoglobin E, symptoms of an allergic reaction occur. These antibodies trigger the release of chemicals hat can cause the physical symptoms and changes associated with allergies. These include:
Itching or swelling of the lips, tongue or throat
Upset stomach, cramps, bloating or diarrhea
Wheezing or difficulty breathing
Anaphylactic shock – a life threatening body reaction which requires emergency care
If you believe that you or your child is suffering from allergies your doctor can do an allergy test to find out what is causing the allergic reaction.
Skin prick tests are the most common form done to test for allergies. The doctor will introduce small amounts of allergy triggers through the skin of the arm or back by pricking or puncturing the skin wiht a needle or similar device. If the patient is allergic to a substance a raised red itchy bump will appear. These reactions usually appear within 15 minutes. The size of the bump is important. The bigger it is the more sensitive the patient is to that particular substance. Your doctor may advise that you discontinue certain medications, especially antihistamines for several days prior to testing.
Your doctor, or allergist may choose to perform a blood test to check for allergies. This is usually performed if the patient has a skin rash which will make it difficult to see the reaction to the skin prick.
Treatment Options for Allergies
The most common form of treatment for allergies are over the counter and prescription drugs. Antihistamines are a broad class of drugs that block the inflammatory effects of histamine. These drugs prevent histamine from interacting with the cells which causes inflammation. Common over the counter antihistamines include: Benadryl and Chlor-Trimeton. Although, these may cause drowsiness.
Other alternatives which may not cause drowsiness are also available over the counter and by prescription. These include, Allegra, Claritin, Alavert and Zyrtec. You can also get these antihitamines with an added decongestant. Do not combine these medications or mix with alcohol. Also avoid opperating heavy machinery while taking these medications.
Nasal sprays are another treatment option for allergies. These can clear out excess mucus and particulates while moisturizing the nasal cavities. Antihistamine nasal sprays are also available. These include, Astelin and NasalCrom.
Corticosteroid nasal sprays are hormones normally released in the body by glands called the adrenal gland which helps you manage stress. These are the most effective medications for allergies because of their powerful anti-inflammatory effect on the nasal tissue. They are also often the first medications perscribed. Corticosteroid nasal sprays include, Flonase and Nasonex.
If you believe that you or your child may be suffering from allergies see your health care professional to get proper testing, diagnosis and medication.