Haywire with Hayfever- How to deal with Blooming Symptoms of Childhood Allergies

Childhood Allergies

WHAT CAUSES CHILDHOOD ALLERGIES?

One helpful ways to think about childhood allergies is to view them as being caused by the immune system having gone haywire. Specifically, the immune system of people with allergies responds to dust, for example, as if a germ or a threat to health. Hayfever is a common term used for childhood allergies and reflects the contribution of weeds, pollen, or other environmental factors.

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF CHILDHOOD ALLERGIES?

That immune system causes troublesome symptoms that range from any to all of the following – redness, swelling, fluid discharge, itching, discomfort, cough and difficulty breathing. The area(s) affected and the strength of the response determines any one person’s symptoms. These allergic problems can start at any time in someone’s life from infancy to old age. The symptoms usually start (and stop) suddenly and wax and wane over time. Allergic problems can last a few months never to return or can come and go over a lifetime. Some people get symptoms certain times of year depending on the blooming and growing of irritants in their environment.

Some people are bothered only infrequently to an insignificant degree and some people have frequent severe allergic problems. Most people with allergies that seek help fall between these extremes.

IS THERE A CURE FOR CHILDHOOD ALLERGIES?

There are no proven treatments (except avoidance) that prevent childhood allergies and there are no proven treatments that cure (or help people “outgrow”) allergies (including allergy shots). Allergy shots are simply another (in addition to nose drops, eye drops, inhaled medications and oral medications) treatment option. They help decrease childhood allergy symptoms for as long as they are administered. They are usually reserved for people that have done all they can do to avoid offending substances. This also includes having “maxed-out” on drops, sprays and oral medications and are still miserable.

WHAT ABOUT CHILDHOOD ALLERGY TREATMENTS?

There are treatments that decrease the severity of symptoms and decrease the frequency of allergic episodes. But all treatments (except avoidance) may have undesirable side-effects. These side-effects range from insignificant problems to problems greater than the original allergic problem. In addition, side-effects vary not only by treatment but also by person. That is, a given treatment may cause few problems in one person, but cause major problems in another person. And to further complicate things, a given treatment may work well in one person, but not work at all in another.

Many start with avoidance, which works for everyone while the side-effects are limited to inconvenience. Finding more specific treatments that work well for a particular person and has minimal side-effects is a trial and error process. So, before deciding about a particular treatment for a particular person, it’s important to determine if the severity of the symptoms justify the search for a treatment. This is especially important when you realize that most people with childhood allergy problems are going to have symptoms for at least a few years.  Thus, if you’re going to recommend medication to someone, you must recognize they are probably going to be using medications for several years.

WHAT ABOUT CHILDHOOD ALLERGY TESTING?

Childhood allergy testing is reasonable for significant problems that have not improved after taking steps to avoid common causes of allergy problems including

  • dust and dust mites
  • feathered and furry animals
  • cigarette smoke
  • perfumes and air freshners

WHEN SHOULD YOU MAKE AN APPOINTMENT TO BE SEEN?

First, you should try avoiding the allergy causing substance. If you don’t know what is causing the childhood allergy problems, you should drop by our office to get an information sheet with helpful tips on avoiding the common allergy causing substances. If after instituting those avoidance measures, your child still has significant problems meriting treatment or testing, you should make an appointment to be seen in the office.

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