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Navigating Asthma and Allergies in Children

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As a pediatrician with MemorialCare Medical Group, I understand the challenges parents face in managing asthma and allergies in their children. May is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, a time when heightened awareness is crucial. Many of my patients seek guidance on how to support their children’s respiratory health best.

Asthma and allergies cast a widespread net, impacting numerous children and families across the globe. Asthma, a chronic respiratory condition, is marked by inflammation and narrowing of the airways, which can trigger a host of distressing symptoms. Children with asthma often grapple with recurrent bouts of wheezing, persistent coughing and feelings of breathlessness, which can significantly disrupt their daily lives.

Allergies present a unique challenge as they involve the immune system’s hypersensitive response to otherwise harmless substances known as allergens. When exposed to allergens such as pollen, dust mites, pet dander or certain foods, children may experience an allergic reaction. Symptoms range from the familiar annoyance of sneezing and a runny nose to the discomfort of itchy, watery eyes and skin rashes. The effects of these symptoms are not only physically taxing but also emotionally distressing for children and their families.

I offer support and guidance in managing children’s allergies with my patients. During routine wellness visits, I assess children’s allergy symptoms, conduct allergy testing if needed and offer a tailored plan for your child’s specific needs. This may include prescribing allergy medications, such as antihistamines or nasal corticosteroids, to alleviate your child’s symptoms, modifying their diet and making suggestions to help alleviate symptoms, such as purchasing an air purifier with a HEPA filter.

I also discuss with parents how they can better understand their child’s allergies, including recognizing triggers, administering medication properly and responding to allergic reactions or asthma flare-ups. In cases of severe allergic reactions, I provide education and training on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as hives, swelling, difficulty breathing or anaphylaxis, while taking the time to guide parents on how to administer epinephrine auto-injectors, such as an EpiPen®.

Here are several steps you can take to support your children with allergies and asthma:

  • Identify and Avoid Triggers: Work with the child’s pediatrician to identify specific allergens triggering their symptoms, such as pollen, pet dander, tobacco smoke or certain foods. Once identified, parents can take proactive steps to minimize exposure to these allergens, whether by implementing a pet-free zone in the home, avoiding outdoor activities during high pollen counts or reading food labels carefully to avoid allergenic ingredients.
  • Maintain a Clean Environment: Regularly clean and vacuum your home to remove dust and other allergens that can accumulate on surfaces and in carpets. Consider using allergen-proof pillowcases and mattress covers to create a barrier against dust mites and investing in a high-efficiency vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to trap allergens effectively.
  • Encourage Good Hygiene: Teach your child the importance of proper hygiene to minimize exposure to allergens. Encourage regular handwashing, especially after playing outdoors or interacting with pets, to prevent the transfer of allergens to the eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Monitor Indoor Humidity Levels: Maintain indoor humidity levels between 30% and 50% to discourage the growth of mold and dust mites – these are common allergens that thrive in humid environments. Use a dehumidifier, particularly in damp areas such as basements and bathrooms, to control moisture levels and reduce allergen exposure.
  • Consider Allergy Medications: Depending on the severity of your child’s allergies, over-the-counter medications can also be purchased to help alleviate symptoms. Antihistamines, nasal corticosteroids and allergy eye drops can help relieve sneezing, itching and congestion, providing much-needed relief during allergy season.
  • Stay Informed and Prepared: Be aware of your area’s pollen forecasts and air quality reports to anticipate potential allergy triggers. Stock up on allergy medications and keep an action plan for flare-ups, including instructions for managing symptoms and responding to emergencies. Ensure your child knows what to do in case of an asthma emergency, including how to use their rescue inhaler and when to seek medical help. Keep emergency contact information readily available, and be sure your child’s school or childcare provider is aware of their asthma and allergies.

Managing asthma and allergies in children requires a collaborative effort between parents and their physicians. Through education, proactive measures and ongoing support, we can help children with asthma and allergies lead healthier, happier lives.

Our urgent care physicians at MemorialCare Medical Group – Long Beach (Los Altos) treat a variety of adult and pediatric non-life-threatening emergencies and specialize in family medicine, internal medicine and pediatric care. To learn more, please visit www.memorialcare.org/losaltos.

By Dr. Catherine Gritchen, pediatrics, MemorialCare Medical Group – Long Beach (Los Altos)

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