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Does Your Child Have Allergies or Asthma?
By Deborah Gentile. M.D.

It startsSpring allergy season is just around the corner and now is the time to prepare if your child has allergies and/or asthma.  Tree pollen season typically occurs in March and April and grass season typically occurs in May and June.   

Approximately 30% of children have allergies and 10% have asthma.  Allergy symptoms include stuffy, itchy, runny nose and post nasal drip.  Some children will also have eye itching, redness, watering and swelling.  Children with asthma may also have wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath.  The best medications for allergies are daily nasal steroid sprays which should be started 2 weeks before the expected start of the allergy season and continued until the end of the season.  Antihistamines by mouth, nasal spray and/or eye drops can also be used on as needed basis. 

Children with asthma should be closely monitored during allergy season and if they are using their rescue medication more than twice a week, they should see their health care provider to discuss starting or changing their daily controller medication.  Many asthma controller medications are now available in once a day dosing forms.  If allergy and/or asthma symptoms are difficult to control, referral to an allergist can help identify the allergy trigger. 

Dr. Deborah Gentile recently joined Dr. Sergei Belenky in the Division of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology of the Pediatric Alliance. She completed a pediatric residency and an allergy/asthma fellowship at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. She is a nationally recognized expert in pediatric allergy and asthma and has extensive research experience in sublingual immunotherapy and pediatric asthma. In her current practice, she provides care to both children and adults for environmental allergies, asthma, food allergies, drug allergies, bee sting allergies, hives and eczema and immune problems.

Allergy skin testing no longer involves scratches on the skin or needles and is not painful.   Once the allergists identifies specific allergies they can advise you on ways to avoid the allergy as well as offer additional treatment options.   Ways to avoid tree and grass pollen are to keep house and car windows closed and use air conditioning, avoid hanging clothes outside to dry and taking a shower every night, including shampooing hair, to remove any pollen from the body. 

If allergy medications are not working, an allergist can offer allergy immunotherapy.  Traditionally, immunotherapy has been given in shot form, but there are new forms of medication available for grass allergy that are given under the tongue once each day starting a few months prior to and continuing to the end of the pollen season.  This type of treatment is called sublingual immunotherapy and has the advantage of not requiring weekly visits to the doctor's office to get allergy shots.  

Spring allergy season can be quite a difficult time for children who suffer with allergies and asthma.  Choosing the treatment that is right for you and your children will create a happier and healthier child and, by extension, a happier family.

For more information or to make an appointment at Pediatric Alliance Division of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, call 412-348-6262 or visit their website at www.pediatricalliance.com

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