Does my child have an allergy?
Allergy is a common problem among children, who can react to various harmless substances in the environment including foods and materials that are breathed in or come into contact with the skin.
Allergy can cause or worsen a range of problems including eczema, asthma, rhinitis/hay fever, and urticaria (hives). Severe reactions known as anaphylaxis are less common but need to be managed carefully.
I have an appointment to bring my son to your allergy clinic very soon. What is skin prick testing and will they need this?
The history you give of your child’s allergic reactions guides which tests are done. If you have any photographs of rashes/reactions it is very useful to bring these with you to the appointment. We will perform skin prick testing if indicated.
Skin prick testing shows an allergic response to a specific allergen and is available for most common food and inhaled allergens. It is a useful test for looking at immediate type allergic reactions, and is a relatively safe and simple test, involving superficial pin pricking of the skin with minimal discomfort. It is usually performed on the inner forearm but other areas can be used if there is active eczema present.
The test is well tolerated by most children. Results are available 15-20 minutes later and can then be discussed at the same appointment. It is necessary to stop taking antihistamines before the test.
My child has seemingly developed hay fever this year. I have been buying antihistamines over the counter for them, but should I take them to the GP for allergy testing?
By ‘hay fever’, we assume your child has eye or nose symptoms through all or part of the pollen season and is relatively well at other times. Over the counter antihistamines are relatively safe medications and if they treat your child’s symptoms with no side effects then self-management is appropriate.
It is a good idea to use the newer non-sedating antihistamines which will not cause drowsiness or affect school work, which can be a problem with the older treatments. You should seek advice if medication is not working or if they have side effects, or have other troublesome allergy problems.
I keep reading so much about allergies on the internet. Where can I find reliable and safe information?
Yes, I agree that there is a lot of stuff on the internet. It is often hard to know what to read and what is reliable. I would recommend that for advice about allergies with your child you look at Allergy UK – https://www.allergyuk.org/ or The Anaphylaxis Campaign – http://www.anaphylaxis.org.uk/ for safe, up-to-date and relevant information.
These charities can provide education and support for individuals, families, and schools. They offer helplines, support networks, online forums along with a vast amount of patient information leaflets. Another useful site which I work with is http://www.itchysneezywheezy.co.uk/ which contains practical videos for treating allergic conditions.
My one year old child has an egg allergy. They are due to have an MMR injection very soon and I am worried. Is it safe?
The MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine has an excellent safety record and can be given to all egg allergic children in the primary care setting, even those who have previously had a severe reaction (anaphylaxis) to egg. The vaccine does not contain any relevant egg protein but is made in cells which come from hens. It is a good idea to talk to your GP or practice nurse if you need further advice about immunisation. You may find the following website provides more useful information. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/543379/9867_MMR_A5leaflet.pdf
Your GP or health visitor may find the following website helpful https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/147824/Green-Book-Chapter-6-v2_0.pdf
My child who has lots of allergies has an EpiPen. When I collected my most recent prescription the GP gave me a different medication called Emerade. Does this matter?
To some extent. There are currently three brands of adrenaline auto-injectors on the market in the UK which can be prescribed to use in emergency situations for severe and potentially life threatening allergic reactions (anaphylaxis). Each adrenaline auto-injector delivers a fixed amount of the medication and can be used once only.
The medicine contained in each device is the same, with different strengths available according to your child’s weight/age. However, the method of administration is different and brand specific so it is very important that you receive training in how to use any new device. Dummy devices are available to practise with.
DISCLAIMER: The above answers are meant as guidelines only. They are not a substitute for advice from your child’s healthcare professional.