Allergy testing & treatment
- Skin prick tests: This is the most common method of testing for allergens. Small drops of the suspected allergens are placed on the skin of the upper back and the skin is lightly pricked. The child is monitored for the next 15 minutes for swelling or redness around the site. This method is used for identifying allergies to pollen, mold, pets, dust and food, and due to the speed and minimal discomfort, it is a good option for children.
- Allergens injected under the skin: More sensitive than the skin prick test, but also more invasive, so used less commonly with children. Used to check for insect sting allergies as well as reactions to medications, such as penicillin.
- Patch testing: Drops of the suspected allergen are placed on a patch which is applied to the skin and left in place for 48 hours. This is usually used to identify allergies to latex or medications, as well as some food allergies.
- Blood testing: Novomed uses the innovative ImmunoCAP and ISAC Multiplex technologies to check for over 400 possible food and environmental allergens using a single blood sample. The use of just one blood sample makes the process a lot less traumatic for children than previous blood testing approaches.
- Elimination testing: The suspected allergen is avoided, and patient monitored to see whether symptoms improve.
- Provocation challenge: Patient is deliberately exposed to the suspected allergen in a safe clinical environment. This test is done under strict medical supervision, completing a well-defined protocol.
Common childhood allergies
- Food allergies
Food allergies occur when the immune system has a reaction to a certain food type, mediated by Immunoglobin E. It can occur within minutes, or several hours after exposure, making identification of the allergen challenging. The most common food allergens in children are egg, milk, soy and wheat. Children can outgrow their food allergies, although the symptoms can be scary when first observed. Some of the most common include hives, itchiness, swollen lips and tongue, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, dizziness and a tingling mouth. Avoidance of the food that is causing the reaction is mandatory, however it is important to talk to your pediatrician before making any extreme diet changes.
It is also worth noting that although bloating and excess gas can be signs of a food allergy, they are more likely to be a symptom of a food intolerance. Whilst uncomfortable, food intolerances are not the same as food allergies and do not require such drastic avoidance.
- Atopic dermatitis
Atopic dermatitis is an inflammatory condition that can have multiple causes, including allergens, usually eaten or inhaled. Atopic dermatitis causes dry skin, redness, blisters, pigmentation changes and thickened skin. Patients with this condition are particularly prone to flare ups, however, most will experience the first symptoms in their first year of life. It usually runs in families, so if either parent suffers from sensitive skin, it is worth monitoring.
One third of cases are related to food allergies, and food colorings and additives are known to exasperate the condition. In addition, some foods including acidic citrus fruits, tomatoes and pineapples can cause non-allergenic skin irritation. Thus, parents are encouraged to keep food records so that possible irritants and allergens can be identified.
It is important to note that there is no scientific link between immunizations and atopic dermatitis.
The first-line treatment is moisturizer, which will soothe and hydrate the skin. In severe cases specific creams may be prescribed and wet wraps applied. Our specialist pediatric allergist and/or dermatologist will discuss these and other treatment options in detail with you.