Child Allergies

Normally, your child’s immune system is programmed to fight off harmful viruses and bacteria that can make them sick. However, sometimes the immune system overreacts, identifying harmless things such as dust mites, pollen and pets as allergens that threaten the body and must be attacked. The result is an allergic reaction.

Allergy Symptoms in Children

When a child has an allergic reaction, the body releases a chemical called histamine, which in turn sets off symptoms that can range from mild to life-threatening. The most common allergy symptoms include:

  • Sneezing or runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Itchy or watery eyes
  • Coughing
  • Scratchy or sore throat
  • Difficulty breathing (asthma)
  • Itchy skin, rash or hives (dermatitis or eczema)
  • Upset stomach, cramps or nausea (usually caused by food allergies)

In severe cases, allergies can cause anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening reaction that requires immediate medical treatment.

Common Allergies in Children

Many substances can trigger an allergic reaction, and different children are allergic to different things. Allergies in children are most frequently caused by:

  • Dust mites
  • Pollen
  • Mold/mildew
  • Animal dander (usually from pets)
  • Cockroaches
  • Stinging or biting insects
  • Perfume or fragrances
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Certain foods

Treating Children's Allergies

Mercy pediatricians know how to help your child get relief from allergies. We start by finding out what’s causing the allergic reaction by evaluating your child’s symptoms and environment with a thorough history and physical examination. We may recommend skin or blood tests to look for specific allergens. For food allergies, an elimination diet can help identify the culprits.

Next, we’ll develop a personalized treatment plan that may include:

  • Lifestyle changes: Often, environmental allergies can be relieved by making changes such as placing dust covers on bedding, using an air purifier or doing saline nasal rinses to rinse out allergens.
  • Over-the-counter medications: Several over-the-counter medications can help relieve symptoms and minimize future allergic reactions. Antihistamines block the effects of histamine and can prevent allergy symptoms. Steroid nasal sprays fight inflammation and can ease symptoms. Remember, these are powerful medications. Talk to your pediatrician first about which ones are right for your child, appropriate doses, and how often to use them.
  • Prescription medications: If over-the-counter remedies are not effective, stronger prescription medications are available to treat symptoms and ward off allergic reactions.
  • Allergy shots: Also known as immunotherapy, allergy shots can help desensitize your child’s immune system to specific allergens so that it doesn’t react to them. Shots are usually given once or twice for a year or longer, and then gradually decreased over time.
  • Epinephrine: Epinephrine is a form of adrenaline used to stop a severe allergic reaction in an emergency. It is given by injection. If your child has life-threatening allergies, your Mercy pediatrician may recommend that you or your child carry epinephrine at all times.

Allergies can be frustrating and uncomfortable, but they are treatable. Count on Mercy to help your child overcome allergy symptoms and live more comfortably.

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