At Pediatric Healthcare, we offer allergy testing as well as allergy shots in our office. Allergy testing is done on Wednesday afternoons. Allergy shot appointments can be made any time during our regular hours.
What are the symptoms of allergy?
Allergies can present with a wide variety of symptoms. If your child has any of the following, ask your doctor if it would be worthwhile to check for allergy:
- Rash or hives
• Frequent sinusitis
• Chronic runny or stuffy nose
• Chronic red eyes
• Severe redness or swelling following bee stings
• Episodes of anaphylaxis (chest tightness, wheezing, throat swelling, lightheadedness, fainting), especially if no one has been able to find the trigger. Common causes include bee stings, shell fish, nuts, soy, and eggs.
• Vomiting, diarrhea or stomach upset after eating certain foods
What are the treatments for allergies?
Obviously, the most important treatment for allergy is for your child to avoid the substance that he is allergic to.
The main medicine for allergies are antihistamines. These medicines can relieve symptoms of chronic runny nose as well as hives or itchy skin. There are two types of antihistamines. The sedating antihistamines are older and tend to make a child sleepy. Benadryl and Atarax are sedating antihistamines.
The non-sedating antihistamines do not cause sleepiness. Zyrtec, Claritin, and Allegra are non-sedating antihistamines.
Steroid nasal sprays are very helpful for children who are able to tolerate 1-2 sprays in each nostril daily. Some steroid nasal sprays include Flonase, Nasacort, Nasonex and Rhinocort.
Singulair is a new type of non-antihistamine allergy medicine which may help with chronic runny nose.
If your child has chronic red eyes from allergies, your pediatrician may recommend an anti-allergy eye drop such as Patanol, Optivar, or Opticrom.
Allergy shots can be very helpful in controlling allergies. This is especially true when your child cannot avoid the allergen or if medicines have not been helpful. Examples of allergens you cannot avoid would be bees (you never know when they will sting) and the well-loved cat that your family just cannot part with. Allergy shots are usually given once a week for the first 12 weeks, then gradually decreased to once a month. When you stop allergy shots, symptoms usually return. If you decide to restart, you have to start over again with once a week shots. This is why we don’t recommend stopping unless you want to stop permanently.
Do allergies run in families?
If one parent has a pollen allergy, there is a 50% chance that the child will be allergic to pollen. If both parents are allergic, this increases to 70%.
What is the treatment for anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis is a severe form of allergy which causes chest tightness, wheezing, throat swelling, lightheadedness, and fainting. It can result rapidly in death if untreated.
If your child has ever had anaphylaxis, your pediatrician will prescribe an Epipen or Epipen Jr. This is a medicine which your child or a responsible adult must inject into the thigh muscle immediately if the child is exposed to the substance which causes anaphylaxis or at the first sign of symptoms. Someone must then take your child immediately to an emergency room, even if he is feeling better. Your child should always have an Epipen with him in a backpack, because you never know when an anaphylactic reaction will strike. The nurse at school should have one and you should keep one at home as well.
If your child has anaphylaxis, your doctor should do allergy testing to try to identify the substance that your child is severely allergic to. In some cases, it may be possible to desensitize your child to this substance by giving allergy shots.
How do allergy shots work?
Allergy shots give your child a very small amount of the substance that he is allergic to by injection. The amount of the substance is slowly increased so that your child develops a tolerance to the substance. Initially the shots are given once a week and then spread out to once a month as your child’s reaction to the allergen decreases. When allergy shots are stopped, the allergy usually returns. This is why allergy shots must be given once a month continually.
What is the season for different allergies in Massachusetts?
Here is a chart which might help you to predict when your child will have the most symptoms from his allergies. This shows when the pollen counts are highest for different allergens in Massachusetts.
Mold allergies may tend to be worse in the fall when decaying leaves harbor mold spores. Dust allergies tend to be worse in the winter when everyone spends more time inside. Pollen counts tend to be highest in the spring and summer on dry, windy days.
What are general recommendations for reducing household allergens?
HEPA filters remove greater than 99% of allergen from the air. It is a good idea to get these filters for rooms where the allergic child spends a lot of time. Air conditioners and dehumidifiers are helpful for decreasing dust mites and molds. Just make sure you change the filter frequently, so molds don’t start growing in the unit. Some tips for specific allergens are listed below. In general, try to target your strategies toward rooms where the child spends a lot of time, especially the bedroom. It helps to keep the windows and doors to this room closed as much as possible.
My child has a food allergy. Where can I get more information?
A good source for information on food allergies is:
The Food Allergy Network
10400 Eaton Place, Suite 107
Fairfax, VA 22030-2208
OR link to www.foodallergy.org
They have information on many topics including managing food allergies in school and allergy-free recipes (such as eggless and milkless birthday cake!)
My child is allergic to bees. What can I do to avoid bee stings?
Stay still and don’t swat at the insect. Bees are more likely to sting if they are irritated. Avoid areas with a lot of flowers or fruit trees. Don’t have your child wear bright clothes, perfumes, or hair sprays when outdoors in the summer. Inspect your property in the early spring for nests and hives and then have an exterminator come to remove them. It is obviously impossible to entirely avoid bee stings, so your child should have an Epipen available at all times.
My child is allergic to dust mites. What are some tips for decreasing her exposure?
Heavy drapes, upholstered furniture, thick rugs and decorative items are big dust collectors. Try to choose furniture and accessories that can be cleaned easily, such as vinyl or leather couches instead of cloth upholstery, washable lamps shades, and mini-blinds instead of drapes. Wood or tile floors are best. If you must have carpets, a low pile carpet or small area rugs which can be washed regularly are best. Put your decorative items in glass-front cases to prevent them from collecting dust. Try to vacuum and dust at least weekly.
Choose pillows with Dacron, foam, or other synthetic fillings. Avoid feather pillows and comforters. Cover your mattress and box spring with allergen-proof covers. Wash bedding at least once a week on the “hot” cycle. Avoid dust ruffles, which, as their name implies, gather a lot of dust. Stuffed animals can also gather a lot of dust. If your child has stuffed animals, keep them in a cupboard with a door rather than out in the open.
My child is allergic to our pets. We just can’t get rid of them. What can we do?
Your child’s room should be a pet-free zone. No pets should be allowed in the room. Allergy shots may help if a pet must remain in the home. There are grooming products for pets such as Allerpet which help to remove dander and saliva which triggers allergies. Regardless of whether you use these products, bathing your pet once a week can help.
My child is allergic to mold. What are some tips for decreasing his exposure?
Clean your bathroom and kitchen frequently with products that are designed to remove mold. White vinegar works well and is not as irritating as other chemicals for children with asthma. Because humidity promotes the growth of mold, it is a good idea to have an air conditioner or dehumidifier in your child’s room. Be sure to change the filter frequently to prevent overgrowth of mold in the unit. Do not use humidifiers or vaporizers in your child’s room. Remove houseplants from your child’s room. Have your child avoid damp areas such as basements with a “musty” smell.
Where can I find products such as mattress and pillow covers to help control my child’s allergies?