Children are notorious for picking up germs and becoming sick frequently. However, where is the line between a simple cold or flu and something more? Allergies, which can produce similar symptoms as a cold or the flu, affect about 40% of children, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
What are allergies?
An allergic reaction is your immune system’s response to an allergen, or particular substance. The immune system mistakenly believes that the allergen is harmful and begins fighting against it, causing the reaction to occur. Allergic reactions can range from mild to severe and have a variety of treatments. Before diagnosing an allergy, doctors usually order an allergy test to find out what exact substances an individual has an allergic reaction to.
Does my child have allergies?
Allergens cause symptoms in two main categories: allergic reactions from food and allergic reactions from other elements. You may notice different symptoms for these two types of reactions.
Symptoms for allergic reactions from food include:
- swelling of the face/tongue
- stomach irritation
- mouth itchiness
- shortness of breath
Symptoms of an allergy produced from other elements like dust, pollen or animal dander may include:
- itchy eyes
- itchy skin
- stuffy or runny nose
- shortness of breath
- watery eyes
How do pediatricians test for allergies?
Your child’s doctor will use an allergy test to determine the exact substances your child’s immune system reacts to. Allergy tests usually come in the form of a prick or scratch test, but doctors may also order a blood test. Prick or scratch tests involve placing tiny amounts of different substances onto the skin, then pricking or scratching the skin to allow the substance to enter the body. If the skin around the substance reacts, your child is allergic. If the skin remains normal, there is no allergy to that substance.
The best way to prevent allergies is to avoid the allergen itself. However, since this is not always an option, doctors treat many cases of seasonal or animal allergies with antihistamine medications. These medications block the body’s reaction to the allergen to decrease symptoms. Decongestants and steroid sprays also help manage symptoms. Immunotherapy exposes the patient to symptoms to build the body’s immunity to them. Some very severe allergies result in anaphylactic shock, which could be life-threatening. These situations often require the help of an emergency adrenaline injection like an Epipen.
Our pediatricians in Bolingbrook, IL can help diagnose and treat child allergies. Call Downers Grove Pediatrics at (630) 759-9230 to schedule an appointment!