Allergy is one of the most common diseases in children and the incidence is increasing. I out of 4 children is allergic. If you or your child suffer from itching eyes and a stuffed or running nose, it’s easy to suspect allergy, but to what? Is it one allergy or several? Is it serious?
What’s an allergy?
An allergy is a hypersensitivity reaction initiated by immunological mechanisms to a substance or substances that are normally harmless e.g. pollen or cat dander etc. In the majority of cases the antibody typically responsible for an allergic reaction is called Immunoglobulin E (IgE) which will cause the release of certain chemicals in the body which cause typical allergy symptoms.
Allergens add up!
Although a few patients are allergic to just one substance, most patients are sensitive to more than one thing. In these cases the effects of exposure to more than one allergen are cumulative, in other words, they add up! These patients may not show symptoms until their total exposure to allergens pushes them over the symptom threshold.
Relevant allergy symptoms:
- Gastrointestinal symptoms
- Dry itchy skin
- Rhinitis, Wheeze/asthma
- Recurrent ear infections
Why should allergy tests be done?
Trigger allergens should be identified to:
- Provide optimal and effective therapy
- Identify and avoid appropriate substances
- Identify allergens for immunotherapy (desensitization)
- Identify patients whose symptoms cannot be attributed to allergy
- Prevent unnecessary therapy
- Prevent unnecessary allergen avoidance
Should my child be tested?
Not all children with allergy symptoms need to be allergy tested – but a test is required when symptoms suspected to be allergy persist. A precise and quantitative test such as an ImmunoCAP ® and/or a skin prick test can help your doctor determine for sure if your child has allergies at an early stage, even before clinical symptoms have started.
There is a widespread misunderstanding that infants and very young children cannot be tested.
An ImmunoCAP blood test can be performed irrespective of:
- Disease activity or severity
Which allergens should you test for?
The substances to which a patient is exposed will generally dictate the allergens to test for. Nevertheless, some substances or allergens are more common as cause of allergy than others. Factors to consider when selecting which allergens to test for are:
- Home environment – pets, foods, plants, grasses etc.
- Type of symptoms
- Patient age
- Geographical area
If contact with allergens cannot be avoided, immunotherapy can be considered in school-age children. This type of therapy involves exposing the patient to increasing amounts of allergen to increase the threshold to that particular allergen. Immunotherapy is very effective in allergy to insect venoms, pollens, mites, animals and moulds.