TEXAS HEALTH & WELLNESS HAY FEVER IS THE LEADING CAUSE OF MISSED SCHOOL AND WORK DAYS NATIONWIDE. ALLERGY UPDATE Preparing for your child for Back to School By: FREDERICK SCHAFFER, MD IT’S THAT TIME of year again—back to school. Before you know it you will hear school bells ringing, textbooks being cracked open and children playing, laughing and….sneezing? According to WebMD seasonal allergies affect 40 percent of U.S. children. On any given day 10,000 of these children are absent from school because of seasonal and perennial allergy symptoms including watery eyes, runny nose, coughing, headache and drowsiness. Even more so, allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever, is the leading cause of missed school and work days nationwide. This year as you dust off the backpack and fill it with school supplies, take a few moments to learn about seasonal allergies and prevention tips to help ensure your children are healthy and not suffering from distracting allergy symptoms this school year. Here is what you need to know: GET TESTED Do you actually know what your child is allergic to? Or are you just guessing? Did you know that most adults and children can be tested for allergies? The first step is to make an appointment at your child’s pediatrician or primary care physician. They can test for the most frequent seasonal and perennial allergens in your area by using the most reliable form of testing; a noninvasive skin (prick) test. The doctor will be able to tell you exactly what your child is allergic 10 NSIDE TEXAS MD / JULY.AUGUST 2014 to in about 15 minutes and discuss with you several treatment options and avoidance techniques. KNOW YOUR OPTIONS • Non-medication options Depending on the severity of your child’s allergies, he/she may not need oral antihistamines, over-thecounter medications and/or nasal steroids. It may help to take specific measures to avoid contact with outdoor allergens such as keeping the windows in the classroom closed during high pollen count days or have air conditioning filters replaced with high proficiency ones. Discuss these options with your child’s teacher, principal or school nurse. Have your kids take a bath in the evening to remove any pollen they may have come in contact with on their skin and hair. • Over-the-counter and prescription medications If your child doesn’t seem to react positively to the avoidance strategies mentioned above, then you may want to try an over-the-counter or prescription antihistamine, or nasal spray formulated for children. Remember these medications may have multiple side effects, including a sedating effect. However, untreated allergic symptoms may make your child even drowsier or distracted. Be sure to talk to your doctor regarding side effects and other adverse reactions when starting a new course of treatment. • Immunotherapy If your kids experience allergy symptoms for more than three months out of the year, you might want to talk with your child’s physician about the only disease-modifying treatment for allergies--immunotherapy (allergy shots). Immunotherapy is a treatment that decreases sensitivity to allergens by introducing increasing amounts of those allergens to the patient over time. This form of treatment treats the root cause of allergies by building up a tolerance, as opposed to over-the-counter medications that just mask symptoms. In addition, immunotherapy is customized for each patient. For example, if your child is allergic to Bermuda grass, mountain cedar and dog hair, then your child’s immunotherapy will include only those antigens. Studies have shown that 85 percent of people treated with immunotherapy for hay fever may achieve symptom relief within the first year of starting immunotherapy. Talk to your child’s pediatrician or primary care provider about allergy testing and shots. United Allergy Services (UAS) enables primary care physicians and pediatricians to provide patients with customized allergy shots that patients can administer themselves at home. This means no more trips back and forth to the allergist. For seasonal and perennial allergy sufferers, self-administered immunotherapy under the guidance of a primary care physician allows access to high-quality, affordable, safe, allergy care and ultimately a symptom-free, healthy life. If your child is experiencing any allergy related symptoms, make an appointment with your child’s pediatrician or primary care physician before the school year starts. It is an important step in helping your kids have a successful school year. Frederick M. Schaffer, MD, FACAAI, FAAAAI, Clinical Associate Professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, is a board-certified allergist and the Chief Medical Officer and Director of the medical advisory board of United Allergy Services, a healthcare services company that assists physicians in independent and group practices to provide in-office allergy testing and immunotherapy.
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