Symptoms of an Allergy

An allergy happens when the human body's natural defense system (immune system) overreacts to an otherwise harmless substance (like pollen). Allergies can appear in several different ways:

Asthma is when airways swell and air passages in the lungs become narrow. This may be triggered by an allergic reaction, although nonallergic triggers can be involved.

Allergic rhinitis is an allergic reaction mainly in the nasal passages. It can occur in one or more "seasons" (seasonal allergic rhinitis or "hay fever") or all year long (perennial allergic rhinitis).

Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a chronic, itchy rash, most commonly found in young children. It may be aggravated by certain allergies.

Concerns about medications

Hives (urticaria) are itchy welts that may be due to allergies, viral infections or unknown causes. Certain foods, viral infections and medications are most likely to cause hives.

Contact dermatitis can be just a skin irritation or an allergic reaction. The allergic type is an itchy skin rash caused by touching, rubbing, or coming into contact with things like poison ivy, chemicals or household detergents.

Food allergy is an allergic reaction to food that can range from stomachache or skin rash to a serious respiratory and medical emergency.

You probably know a child who has asthma or allergies. Perhaps it is your own child. Asthma, hay fever, hives and eczema are familiar words for most of us. In fact, in the United States, more than 35 million adults and children have these allergy-related problems.

So how can you tell whether your child has allergies or just another cold? Allergy symptoms differ from cold symptoms. Allergies usually appear for longer periods of time and including the following:

On the other hand, cold symptoms usually last for a shorter period of time. Colds are often marked by the following:

There are many good medicines to treat allergies and asthma. Some, like antihistamines, are available over-the-counter. They may help relieve many of the symptoms of hay fever and eczema, especially itching, sneezing and runny nose. Other kinds of medications must be prescribed by your pediatrician.

Both allergy and asthma medicines may have side effects. Some antihistamines may cause sleepiness, sometimes interfering with mental tasks. Decongestants (like pseudoephedrine) and oral asthma medications (like albuterol) may make your child irritable. Before using any medication, you should talk to your pediatrician and carefully read the warnings listed on the label. If any of these medicines fail to relieve the symptoms, or if side effects interfere with rest, school or play, you should call your pediatrician. Your child may need a different medication or dose.

In some cases, avoiding the cause of the allergy or using medicines may not control allergic symptoms. If this happens, your pediatrician may recommend that you see a pediatric allergist, a doctor who specializes in hay fever, asthma, eczema and other allergy-related diseases. The allergist will most likely:

Allergy shots may be recommended. These shots contain small but gradually increasing amounts of the substances to which your child is allergic. This binds the antibodies that cause the allergic symptoms so your child is less sensitive to these substances. Allergy shots are not effective for food allergies. Staying away from the substance that causes trouble is best. Only a small number of children require allergy shots.

No matter what treatment you use, you can help your child live a happy, healthy life by working closely with your pediatrician to prevent problems and by using recommended medications. Your pediatrician also can tell you about simple environmental precautions to take and help you decide if your child needs to see an allergy specialist.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics