Pollen, Peanuts, Pets, and Pests

A special feature by Manju Chopra M.D., CMO PINGMD, Inc.*

Up to 50 million Americans, including millions of kids, have some type of allergy. Almost 2 million schooldays are lost per year just from allergies. The most common triggers for these allergies are foods, stings, medication and pollen; therefore, managing your environment is your best protection by preventing exposure to allergens.

• Know the child’s allergies and how they react.
• Have a list of the child’s medication and exact doses.
• Be prepared to administer the medication, learn puffers, pens and doses.
• Avoid high allergen environments.
• Always carry your cellphone with the critical numbers to urgent care.

Any child may become allergic, but those with family members that have allergies are more likely because they inherited the tendency to respond to certain substances the same way. It is important to know the different ways that children’s allergies can show up including:

• Skin rash
• Wheezing
• Congestion, runny nose and sneezing (“hay fever”)
• Hives with swelling
• Tummy pains or colic in babies

An allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to a substance (called an allergen), which most people do not notice but with an allergic person this substance is seen as an invader and sets up a reaction that can vary from annoying to possibly harmful to the person.

The allergic reaction can affect a person’s eyes, nose, throat, lungs, skin, or gastrointestinal tract as the body attempts to rid itself of the allergen. Any future exposure to that allergen or repeated exposure will trigger more easily and can even cause more severe symptoms.

Many children will have medication for allergies and their asthma, either to treat an episode or medication they take regularly to prevent outbursts. Children at later ages can be quite independent and self reliant with medication, but you should always ask and know the proper procedures for delivering their medication. A quick video tutorial is always available on YouTube. Know the child’s pediatrician contact number and who to call, if it is an emergency. If you notice difficulty breathing or a rash growing with swelling of the skin, do not hesitate to go to the nearest ER, but always be ready with an Epipen and learn how and when to use one.

The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines recommend that parents teach their children how to use asthma inhalers or EpiPens, and that parents and custodians allow children to carry them with them at all times. Delays can have real health consequences so be sure that you have confirmed the procedures.

Let’s go over a few potential risk scenarios. Pets need to be washed and groomed to minimize dander, but remember that there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic pet. If you are planning any outdoor activities you are best advised to go to areas with low pollen counts like the ocean or lake and not a picnic in the park on a high pollen count day. You could however go to the park early in the morning when the pollen count is low, and always be ready with low risk alternatives such as a visit to the library, children’s museums, and indoor playgrounds if you need an activity when the pollen count is high. Showering or bathing and washing her hair to wash off pollens, particles and grasses is always a good idea after a long day out.

Food allergies and asthma are the ones to really watch out for and have a preparedness plan. Work with the child’s parents to have an allergy kit with such as epinephrine (EpiPen) and antihistamines, steroid nasal spray, steroid inhaler, and eye-drops. If the child has multiple food allergies, you may need to make and pack all of his food yourself and don’t venture into food zones even if you find them safe, hidden nuts and allergens are everywhere.

Just remember:

• Allergies in children are common but should be taken seriously as they can have adverse health consequences.
• Allergies can affect nutrition and growth and it is important to treat.
• Treatment of the child’s allergies and especially avoidance of triggers will make them healthier.

Prevention keeps them safe and you will have more quality time with them.

*Dr. Manju Chopra is the co-founder and CMO of PINGMD, a practicing pediatrician and a mother of two. PINGMD is a mobile healthcare communications and solutions company designed to reset and restore the relationship between caregivers and physicians, and physicians and their colleagues. Dr. Chopra graduated from Punjabi University, Government Medical College Patiala and held research fellowship positions at Duke and UCSF Medical Centers. Dr. Chopra is currently an attending physician with the Pediatric Ambulatory Services and Emergency Department at Flushing Hospital Medical Center. She and her family reside in New York City.