Doc Talk: Allergies

We talked one-on-one with pediatric emergency doctor, Clint Pollack from Valley Children's Hospital about allergies and what families need to know about reactions and treatments.

What causes an allergic reaction?

  • Allergic reactions are caused by immune hypersensitivity: the body's immune system overreacting to normal environmental stimuli.

  • A person must be exposed to something at least once before he or she can develop an allergy to it.

There are different types of allergies, including what many are dealing with right now, seasonal allergies?

  • Allergies include

  • Seasonal allergies, allergic rhinitis, hay fever

  • Asthma

  • Atopic dermatitis, eczema

  • Food allergies

  • Anaphylaxis

What things in our environment can trigger allergies and how's the best way to know if you're allergic?

  • Most common environmental triggers are pollen, mold, animal dander, dust mite, cockroach, insect bites/stings, air pollution, smoke, and food.

  • Allergy testing should be done by a specialist to determine what a person is allergic to. Testing can be a blood test or a skin test.

What are symptoms and what causes them to appear?

  • Symptoms are caused by the immune system reacting to an allergen and releasing inflammatory chemicals, especially histamine.

  • Symptoms can include a runny nose, nasal congestion, itchy red watery eyes, coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, difficulty breathing, rash, itching, hives, or swelling.

At what point do allergic reactions become dangerous and when should parents take their kids to see a doctor?

  • Anaphylaxis is the most serious allergic reaction and can be fatal. Symptoms involve several different parts of the body and can include hives, swelling, vomiting, and problems breathing. If you suspect anaphylaxis, give EpiPen (if you have it) and call 911 right away.

  • Prevention is important. Avoid allergens and minimize exposure.

What is done to treat allergies?

  • Treatment includes decontamination (washing skin, rinsing eyes, removing allergen, nasal wash) and medications such as decongestants, antihistamines, and steroids.

  • Steroids are anti-inflammatory and help to suppress the immune response to allergens. They can be used to treat and prevent allergies.

  • Steroid creams ( hydrocortisone, triamcinolone) for eczema.

  • Nasal steroids ( fluticasone, mometasone) for rhinitis.

  • Inhaled steroids ( beclomethasone, budesonide) for persistent asthma.
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