Treatment for Pediatric Allergies

Inhalant and contact allergies in children—those that can be inhaled or touched—are often caused by excessive immune system responses to everyday things in the environment. Outdoors, things like pollen, plants, molds, and insect bites can cause a serious reaction. Indoors, things like mold, dust mites, or exposure to animal hair, skin, or saliva can also cause allergic issues. Some children can also be allergic to certain foods and medications when ingested.

Since the normal process of breathing allows the lining of the nose, throat, voice box, and lungs to come into direct contact with airborne particles of potentially allergic substances, these are often the most affected areas in the body. Particles in the air can cause sneezing, itchy eyes with circles under the eyes, itchy ears with blockage, swelling of the face and airway, drainage from the nose into the throat, tickling in the throat, and coughing. Eyes can become dry or runny and red, and the nose can be congested or runny with a decreased sense of smell.

The most important way to identify potential allergies is to watch your child’s reaction to foods and different environmental settings. Food allergies can cause stomach aches, vomiting, and diarrhea, and may indicate a serious reaction to something your child ate or drank. Paying special attention to foods like peanuts, milk, eggs, wheat, and shellfish can help narrow down what your child might be allergic to.

What Should I Do if My Child Has Allergies?

The most concerning allergic reaction is called “anaphylaxis,” when the air passages swell and close. This reaction can be life-threatening, and can happen quickly, or it might happen hours after exposure. Anaphylaxis is usually treated with an injection of adrenalin from an Epi-Pen, and parents often take their child to the emergency room for treatment and close monitoring.

Although less serious than an anaphylactic reaction, chronic airway obstruction and drainage can lead to infections, poor sleep, and fatigue at home, in school, or during physical activities. Allergic symptoms such as a stuffy nose and sneezing can also resemble a common cold or sinus infection. Kids with allergies may be more prone to getting multiple ear infections or nose and throat infections. However, controlling allergies can often lead to less infections and illness and overall improvement.

Discussing your child’s symptoms—when they occur and how severe they have been—with your primary care physician or ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist, or otolaryngologist, is the most important way to determine what may be making your child sick. Common tests help determine exactly what your child is allergic to, and how to help them. Skin or blood tests can be performed in the office with minimal discomfort that can identify specific things that your child should stay away from.

Your doctor can instruct you in basic preventive measures to follow at home and might start your child with a nasal spray, eyedrops, or an antihistamine pill to relieve their symptoms. Most antihistamines for children do not cause drowsiness. For more severe allergic reactions, allergy shots (sometimes called subcutaneous immunotherapy) or drops placed under the tongue (sometimes called sublingual immunotherapy) might be helpful for long-term control.

Because certain allergies can be hereditary and run in the family, be sure to let your doctor know if other family members have allergies, asthma, sinus infections, or reactions to certain foods. That can help identify what might be happening with your child.

What Other Steps Can I Take to Protect My Child from Allergies?

Even though there is no cure for allergies, patients can be gradually desensitized to many substances and their symptoms can be managed. The best first step is to avoid allergic triggers and let everyone—family members, teachers, parents of your child’s friends—know that your child has a certain reaction.

At the grocery store or a restaurant, be aware that even though a specific food may not be in a dish, there is a possibility that the allergic substance can be nearby or in materials used to cook certain dishes, which can also cause a problem. Make your server aware of food allergies prior to ordering.

Finally, you may wish to consider special air filters, linens, pest control methods, hot water in the washing machine, and changing the way your child interacts with family pets can also help decrease their allergic symptoms and discomfort.

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The information on is provided solely for educational purposes and does not represent medical advice, nor is it a substitute for seeking professional medical care.