The approach to managing a child’s allergies is similar to that of an adult, with some important differences regarding medication choices and dosing. In general, there are three ways to treat a child’s allergies:
- Avoidance of the allergic triggers
- Use of medications
- Allergy shots (immunotherapy)
Avoidance of Allergic Triggers
Avoidance of the causes of a child’s allergy symptoms can often be the best way to prevent symptoms. There is essentially no cost, no medication side effects, and it is essentially a curative approach to the child’s allergic problem. Examples of at least partially avoidable allergens include pet dander and dust mites. However, avoidance of allergens is often difficult and not always possible. For example, plant pollens and mold spores are part of the outside air, and short of keeping a child indoors all the time, it is impossible to avoid exposure to these allergens. Once allergy testing reveals the presence of allergic antibodies to various triggers, an allergist may recommend avoidance of these triggers.
Use of Medications
When avoidance measures fail or are not possible, many children will require medications to treat their allergy symptoms. The choice of medication depends on numerous questions to be answered by the parent or child’s physician:
- How severe are the child’s allergies?
- What are the child’s allergy symptoms?
- What medication can the family get (over the counter prescription)?
- What medication will the child take?
- Does he/she need medication daily or intermittently?
- What side effects might the child experience from the medication(s)?
Allergy shots, or immunotherapy, treats allergies by reducing the child’s sensitivity to allergens. Although immunotherapy doesn’t work for everybody and may be only partially effective in some people, it does offer some severe allergy sufferers the chance to eventually reduce or stop using “rescue” medication.
This therapy might work for your child if he/she suffers from severe allergies and cannot avoid the specific things he/she is allergic to. It is most successful when used to treat:
- Those with allergic rhinitis
- Those with asthma
- If it begins early in life or soon after the allergy develops for the first time
Work with your child’s doctor to discover what will work best for your family and allow your child an active and joyful life.