Allergy Season Is Here by Dr. Arti Jain

allergy-culpritsDust, cats, peanuts, cockroaches. An odd grouping, but one with a common thread: allergies — a major cause of illness in the United States. Up to 50 million Americans, including millions of kids, have some type of allergy. In fact, allergies account for the loss of an estimated 2 million school days per year.

An allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to a substance that’s harmless to most people. But in someone with an allergy, the body’s immune system treats the substance (called an allergen) as an invader and reacts inappropriately, resulting in symptoms that can be anywhere from annoying to possibly harmful to the person.

WHEN TO SUSPECT AN ALLERGY
Here are some common clues that could lead you to suspect your child may have an allergy:

  • Repeated or chronic cold-like symptoms that last more than a week or two, or develop at about the same time every year.
  • These could include a runny nose, nasal stuffiness, sneezing, throat clearing, and itchy, watery eyes.
  • Recurrent red, itchy, dry, sometime scaly rashes in the creases of the elbows and/or knees, or on the back of the neck, buttocks, wrists, or ankles.
  • Symptoms that occur repeatedly after eating a particular food that may include hives, swelling of face or extremities, gagging, coughing or wheezing, vomiting or significant abdominal pain.
  • Itching or tingling sensations in the mouth, throat and/or ears during certain times of year or after eating certain foods, particularly fresh fruits.

COMMON ALLERGENS ON THE HOME FRONT

  • Dust mites (dust mites are microscopic and are found in bedding, upholstered furniture and carpet as well as other places)
  • Furred animal allergens (dogs, cats, guinea pigs, gerbils, rabbits, etc.)
  • Pest allergens (cockroaches, mice, rats)
  • Pollen (trees, grasses, weeds)
  • Molds and fungi (including molds too small to be seen with the naked eye)
  • Foods (cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish) 

HOW TO MANAGE ALLERGIC NASAL SYMPTOMS

  • Allergy testing should be performed to determine what, if any, of these environmental allergens your child is allergic to.
  • If your child is allergic to pets, the addition of pets to your family would not be recommended.
  • If your child is allergic to pests, professional extermination, sealing holes and cracks that serve as entry points for pests, storing foods in plastic containers with lids and meticulous cleanup of food remains can help to eliminate the pests and reduce allergen levels.
  • Dust mites congregate where moisture is retained and food for them (human skin scales) is plentiful. They are especially numerous in bedding, upholstered furniture, and rugs. Padded furnishings such as mattresses, box springs, and pillows should be encased in allergen-proof, zip-up covers, which are available through catalogs and specialized retailers. Wash linens weekly and other bedding, such as blankets, every 1 to 2 weeks in hot water. (The minimum temperature to kill mites is 130 degrees. If you set your water heater higher than 120 degrees, the recommended temperature to avoid accidental scald burns, take care if young children are present in the home.)
  • If your child is allergic to outdoor allergens, it can be helpful to use central air conditioners when possible. Showering or bathing at the end of the day to remove allergens from body surfaces and hair can also be helpful. For patients with grass pollen allergy, remaining indoors when grass is mowed and avoiding playing in fields of tall grass may be helpful. Children with allergies to molds should avoid playing in piles of dead leaves in the fall. Pets tracking in and out of the house can also bring pollen and mold indoors.

MEDICATIONS TO CONTROL SYMPTOMS

Your child’s allergy treatment should start with your pediatrician, who may refer you to a pediatric allergy specialist for additional evaluations and treatments.

  • Antihistamines – Ones taken by mouth can help with itchy watery eyes, runny nose and sneezing, as well as itchy skin and hives. Some types may cause drowsiness.
  • Nasal Corticosteroids – Highly effective for allergy symptom control and are widely used to stop chronic symptoms. Safe to use in children over long periods of time. Must be used daily.
  • Allergy Immunotherapy – Immunotherapy, or allergy shots, may be recommended to reduce your child’s allergy symptoms. If allergen avoidance and medications are not successful, allergy shots for treatment of respiratory allergies to pollen, dust mites, cat and dog dander, and outdoor molds can help decrease the need for daily medication.

MANAGING ECZEMA (ATOPIC DERMATITIS):

  • Steroid creams are very effective. When used sparingly and at the lowest strength that does the job, they are very safe.
  • Antihistamine medication may be prescribed to relieve the itching, and help break the itch-scratch cycle.
  • Long-sleeved sleepwear may also help prevent nighttime scratching
  • Soaps containing perfumes and deodorants may be too harsh for children’s sensitive skin.
  • Launder new clothes thoroughly before your child wears them.  Avoid fabric softener.
  • Use laundry products that are free of dyes and perfumes and double-rinse clothes, towels and bedding.
  • Lukewarm soaking baths are good ways to treat the dry skin of eczema. Gently pat your child dry after the bath to avoid irritating the skin with rubbing. Then, liberally apply moisturizing cream right away.
  • Eczema, particularly when severe, may be associated with food allergies (e.g., milk, egg, peanut).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Dr. Arti Jain – Doctor Jain is a very caring pediatrician practicing in the Santa Clara County California area.  You can contact her:  Tel (408)-378-6171 or email her: Jainarti.mail@gmail.com.  You can read more on her website: http://www.drartijain.com

 

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