Treating Winter Allergies in Children
With the beginning of winter come freezing temperatures that end seasonal fall pollen allergies. However, many warm weather irritants – such as pet dander, mold and mildew – are around all year, and exposure can peak once the furnace kicks on and the windows are closed for the winter. No matter the time of year or season, young allergy sufferers can receive compassionate care at the Pediatric Allergy & Immunology Clinic at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center.
The clinics at Children's Hospital & Medical Center offer comprehensive inpatient and outpatient services for children with allergies and related diseases like asthma. Whether a patient suffers from seasonal allergies, or food, medicine or insect allergies, Hana Niebur, M.D., a pediatric allergy and immunology specialist at Children’s, says it takes a special touch to treat younger patients.
“Children may not be as understanding as adults about why they have restrictions,” she says. “I think it’s important that kids are able to play outside, to have fun and to be children. My approach is to make treatment work for what a child can tolerate on a daily basis. My goal is to make them feel like they can have a normal life.”
The clinic also treats those with respiratory infections and children who are highly sensitive to infectious organisms. Before recommending treatment, the staff provides a comprehensive evaluation of each child's condition during the first visit. Collaboration is an essential part of treatment.
“The patient population that’s drawn here is exciting to work with, and at Children’s, we have a lot of different specialists in one place, and we can provide care as a group,” Dr. Niebur says.
Allergies can affect anyone, but are generally more common in kids and tend to run in families. An allergic reaction may occur in the skin, eyes, lining of the stomach, nose, sinuses, throat and/or lungs – places where immune system cells are located to fight off inhaled, swallowed or contacted “invaders.”
Although hundreds of ordinary substances could trigger allergic reactions, the most common allergens include: tree, grass, and weed pollens; latex, molds, dust mites, foods, medicines and insect stings. Confirming a diagnosis typically involves skin testing, blood testing or challenge testing, which involves taking a very small amount of allergen by mouth, inhalation or a combination of both methods.
“Skin testing is still the most accurate form of testing for environmental allergens. For food allergies, it can be a bit trickier, but it usually requires a combination of skin testing and blood testing,” Dr. Niebur says.
Allergy sufferers may become used to chronic symptoms, but with the help of an allergy specialist, these symptoms can usually be prevented or controlled. Medications are available. In some cases, allergy shots are needed to desensitize the immune system to the allergy. Treatments vary based on a child's age, overall health and other factors.