According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of children with allergic conditions has increased over previous decades. In fact, in 2021, over 25% of children in the U.S. had at least one allergic condition.
From seasonal allergies to food sensitivities, these conditions can influence a child's daily life, impacting their ability to play, learn, and thrive. While allergies may seem like a common occurrence, they should not be underestimated because their effects can be significant and far-reaching.
They can manifest in a multitude of ways, from mild discomfort to severe, life-threatening reactions. Identifying and understanding these conditions empowers parents and caregivers to provide the necessary care and support for their children.
At Robertson Pediatrics, we are committed to providing expert guidance and specialized care for children with allergies. Our expert providers are skilled in diagnosing and managing various types of allergies, tailoring treatment plans to each child's unique needs.
Allergies are the result of a unique interaction between the body's immune system and substances known as allergens. Allergens are typically harmless, everyday substances that can trigger an exaggerated or hypersensitive response from the immune system in children with allergies.
Here’s a breakdown of what happens to the body in the case of children with allergies.
- When a child with allergies is exposed to an allergen, the immune system perceives it as a potential threat.
- The immune system reacts to the perceived threat, and the body’s defense mechanisms are activated.
- The immune system releases a cascade of chemicals, such as histamines and leukotrienes, as a response to the allergen.
- These chemicals trigger a range of symptoms, including:
- Runny nose
- Itchy or watery eyes
- Skin rashes
- Digestive discomfort
- Difficulty breathing and anaphylaxis (in severe cases)
It's important to note that allergies can manifest in diverse ways, from mild discomfort to severe, life-threatening reactions.
For example, some children may experience seasonal allergies with sneezing and itchy eyes when exposed to pollen, while others may have a more severe reaction.
It's also important for parents to know the difference between allergic reactions and sensitivities. Allergic reactions involve the immune system's response to specific allergens, leading to symptoms that can range from mild to severe.
On the other hand, sensitivities are often described as intolerances or adverse reactions to a substance. However, they don't trigger an immune system response in the same way as allergies
Sensitivities are known to lead to symptoms such as digestive issues, headaches, or general discomfort instead of allergic responses like hives and swelling.
Food allergies are perhaps the most widely recognized allergies in children. These allergies occur when the immune system identifies specific food proteins as harmful invaders, triggering an allergic response.
Common allergens include peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, and fish. Food allergies can cause symptoms ranging from mild hives or digestive discomfort to severe anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening reaction.
Recognizing and managing food allergies is vital, as exposure to allergenic foods can result in serious health risks.
Environmental allergies are more commonly known as seasonal allergies. These are the result of the immune system reacting to allergens such as pollen, mold, dust mites, or pet dander in the air at specific times of the year.
Symptoms usually include sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, and skin rashes. While these allergies are typically not life-threatening, they can significantly impact a child's quality of life.
Environmental allergies may persist year-round or be seasonal, necessitating tailored management strategies.
Insect allergies can include reactions to stinging insects like bees, wasps, and hornets or even bites from insects like mosquitoes. While not all insect stings or bites result in allergies, some children may experience severe reactions.
Insect allergies can lead to localized swelling and discomfort or progress to more severe systemic reactions. Understanding the potential health risks associated with insect allergies is vital, especially if your child has a known sensitivity to stings or bites.
Symptoms of allergic reactions in children may appear in various forms depending on the type of allergen. Common signs of an allergic reaction may include:
- Respiratory symptoms, such as sneezing, coughing, a runny or stuffy nose, and shortness of breath.
- Skin reactions, such as hives (raised, itchy welts on the skin), eczema, itching, and swelling.
- Digestive discomfort causing nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal pain.
- Life-threatening symptoms of throat swelling, breathing difficulty, fall in blood pressure, and loss of consciousness in severe cases.
Allergy testing helps identify the substance(s) to which your child is allergic. These tests find out what caused the allergic reaction or allergy symptoms for your child.
At Robertson Pediatrics, our approach combines state-of-the-art diagnostics with a compassionate and child-friendly environment. We ensure that each child's allergies are accurately identified and managed.
The type of allergy testing recommended for your child may vary based on the suspected allergen and the child's medical history. Common methods include:
- Skin Prick Tests: During a skin prick test, a tiny amount of allergen extract is applied to the skin on the forearm or back. The skin is then lightly pricked to allow the allergen to enter. If an allergy is present, the skin will typically develop a raised, itchy, and red bump within about 15-20 minutes.
- Blood Tests: A blood test can be used to measure the level of specific antibodies (IgE) in the blood. Elevated IgE levels can mean that the body triggered a protective response, which confirms the presence of allergy.
- Oral Food Challenges: In cases of suspected food allergies, particularly when skin and blood tests yield inconclusive results, an oral food challenge may be recommended. This closely supervised process involves introducing the suspected food to the child under medical supervision to observe any allergic reactions.
Once an allergy has been identified, the treatment approach can include:
- Allergy medications, such as antihistamines to relieve symptoms, epinephrine auto-injectors for severe reactions, and corticosteroids for inflammation.
- Allergen avoidance to reduce exposure is a critical part of managing allergies. This can include avoiding certain food items or environmental control measures for environmental allergies.
Allergen immunotherapy, commonly known as allergy shots, can be an effective long-term solution that reduces sensitivity to allergens.
Our team at Robertson Pediatrics takes a comprehensive and individualized approach to managing childhood allergies. We specialize in managing and treating childhood allergies, tailoring care to meet each child's unique needs.
We offer same-day visits in our clinic located in the heart of Beverly Hills. For appointments, please call us at 310-659-8687 or contact us online.