Posted: Jun 21, 2013 8:00 AM
 
Whether your child had a suspicious reaction to a food or is wiping her nose every time she goes outside, you may be considering allergy testing. Two allergists offer tips on which children should be tested for allergies and when the testing will give the most conclusive results.

Winter weather means tucking tissues into pockets to wipe runny noses on a daily basis. Coughs and sniffles are passed around at play dates and from hand-to-hand during games at school or library story times. Summer colds are common, too, but parents may find themselves wondering if their child's Kleenex habit is the sign of something more.

Advice from an allergist

Your child is at a higher risk for allergies if there is a strong family history and pattern of symptoms.

Dr. Clifford Bassett, an allergy expert based in New York, offers his opinion on when children may need to be tested for allergies. He explains to parents, "Your child is at a higher risk for allergies if there is a strong family history and pattern of symptoms. For example, if others in your family get a persistent cough after playing in the park or spending time with pets, then chances are your child may be allergic, too."

Dr. Bassett suggests worried parents make an appointment with an allergist for testing. "Allergists perform virtually painless skin tests that are reliable and accurate in pinpointing the child's problem and a method for individual effective treatment."

Environmental allergy symptoms

Physical allergy symptoms go beyond a running nose. Dr. Bassett provides the top three physical indications that a child may have allergies.
  1. Extra crease in eyelids. This is often caused from eczema/allergies. It is a symptom that is much more common in children.

  2. Puffy eyelid and discoloration beneath lower lids. This is an indication of allergies and sinus problems.

  3. Nasal crease on bridge of nose (horizontal line) from repeated rubbing.

Expert advice about food allergies

Testing will help parents determine the exact foods that caused the reaction.

Rilina Ghosh, M.D. is a physician at Lake Shore Pediatrics in Illinois and an instructor of clinical pediatrics at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University. She suggests having children tested for food allergies if they have an allergic reaction like hives, swelling or difficulty breathing after eating or if they have moderate to severe eczema that isn't responding to treatments such as steroid cream. Testing will help parents determine the exact foods that caused the reaction so parents and children can avoid the foods and prepare themselves for accidental exposure.

Food challenges and allergen desensitization

Dr. Ghosh discusses the likelihood of food allergies being outgrown. "Children who are allergic to milk, wheat, egg and soy have a high likelihood of outgrowing these allergies, and therefore should be retested on a yearly basis. While peanut and tree nut allergies are less likely to be outgrown, the possibility should be determined more on a case-by-case basis." However, parents should not attempt food challenges — the reintroduction of a previously allergic food in small amounts — on their own. Food challenges should take place in the controlled atmosphere of an allergist's office to minimize the severity of an unexpected reaction.

Food challenges should take place in the controlled atmosphere of an allergist's office...

Dr. Ghosh also weighs in on the desensitization of allergens, which is the method of reducing allergic reactions by a consistent ingestion of increasing amounts of the allergenic food, beginning with miniscule amounts. "While desensitization to food allergens is being studied, the goal of this is to keep patients safe against accidental exposure, not to allow them to consume allergenic foods on a regular basis. Physicians are hopeful that patients with life threatening food allergies will have access to food desensitization in the future, but the practical application of this science is still on the horizon."

More about kids' health issues

Common signs of asthma in kids
Children and non-traditional diets
Sleep: A key to your child's health

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