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Daily Dose

Allergy Season

1:30 to read

Allergy season is quickly approaching and if your child is known to have seasonal allergic rhinitis (nasal congestion, runny nose, itchy nose and sneezing) during the fall months, it is time to begin the use of their intra-nasal steroids and oral antihistamine on a daily basis.  It is also easy to begin therapy for suspected allergic rhinitis as both nasal steroid sprays and non-sedating antihistamines are available over the counter, and there are many choices as well (liquids, chewables, and pills).

 

Interestingly, I just read an article from a study done in India which looked at Vitamin D levels in children with allergic rhinitis.  It was a small study, only 42 children, between the ages of 5-15 years were followed. The authors looked at nasal symptom scores in children who were maintained on their allergic rhinitis protocol but one group received a Vitamin D supplement as well. 

 

Vitamin D is known to have effects on T and B cells which may link Vitamin D to immune related conditions and allergies. There are many interesting studies involving Vitamin D and the role it plays in our daily lives and there continues to be a lot of controversy on the topic as well. 

 

But, with that being said, in this study children who received Vitamin D supplementation (400-800 IU per day depending on age of the child) not only had higher Vitamin D levels, they also had lower nasal symptom scores. 

 

Of course in the study they looked at Vitamin D levels pre and post treatment. But it would seem to me (being an allergy sufferer myself) that adding a daily dose of Vitamin D to my allergy regimen couldn’t hurt.  

 

There continues to be an increase in allergic disease around the world and at the same time, more and more people are seeking protection from the sun (from which we make cutaneous Vitamin D). Sun protection continues to be a good idea too. Of course, this is only one study, and further research with greater study participants are necessary. But in the meantime, you might discuss adding a dose of Vitamin D to your child’s allergy regimen with your pediatrician. 

 

Your Child

The Eczema, Allergies and Asthma March

1:45

Eczema refers to a number of different skin conditions in which the skin becomes red and irritated and sometimes has small, fluid filled bumps that ooze.

The most common cause of eczema is atopic dermatitis (sometimes called infantile eczema), which affects older kids as well as infants.

Children with eczema may eventually get food allergies, hay fever, or asthma. But you can take steps to soothe the itch and possibly cut the risk of allergies.

While most experts don't think eczema is purely allergic, it's clearly connected to allergic conditions like food allergies, hay fever, and asthma.

·      Up to 80% of kids with eczema get hay fever or asthma later in childhood.

·       35% of adults with asthma or nasal allergies had eczema as kids.

·      If a mom has allergies, there's almost a 1 in 3 chance that her baby will have eczema.

·      37% of kids with moderate to severe eczema also have food allergies.

For some kids, eczema and allergies develop in a specific order, as they get older. It starts with eczema, then food allergies, then asthma, and then hay fever. It's called the allergic march.

But just because your child has eczema doesn't mean they'll get these other conditions. It just means there's a higher risk.

There are several things that can increase a child’s risk of being part of the allergic march.  Kids who get eczema at a young age may be more likely to have allergies or asthma later. Kids with worse eczema symptoms may be more likely to get allergies or asthma.

You can do some things that might lower your child's chances of worsening eczema, asthma, or allergies. The evidence isn't clear, so talk to your doctor or your child's pediatrician. Depending on the situation, the doctor might recommend:

Breastfeeding your baby: It might lower the risk of eczema, later allergies, or asthma.

Diet changes: If your baby has a high risk of allergic problems, some doctors recommend changes in diet. Breastfeeding for at least 4 months can help protect your child. “Hydrolyzed” formula might help protect formula-fed babies.

Other ways to keep your child's eczema under control include:

Get allergy testing. If you can pin the problem on a specific allergen, you can figure out ways to avoid it.

Use a moisturizer. Go for thick creams and ointments that stop the skin from drying out.

Keep fingernails short. Your child will do less damage to the skin from scratching.

Avoid irritants. Always use unscented soap and laundry detergent. Stay away from cigarette smoke.

Watch for problems. If your child's eczema seems to be getting worse -- or if they get allergy symptoms, like congestion or a runny nose -- see a doctor. The sooner you get treatment, the sooner your child will feel better.

In many cases, eczema goes into remission and symptoms may disappear altogether for months or even years.

For many kids, it begins to improve by the age of 5 or 6; others may have flare-ups throughout adolescence and early adulthood.

In some kids, the condition may improve but then restart as they enter puberty, when hormones, stress, and irritating skin products or cosmetics are introduced. Some people will have some degree of dermatitis into adulthood, with areas of itching and a dry, scaly appearance.

Eczema is not contagious, so there's no need to keep a baby or child who has it away from siblings, other kids, or anyone else.

Story sources; http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/eczema/child-eczema-14/allergies?ecd=wnl_prg_050116&ctr=wnl-prg-050116_nsl-promo-4_title&mb=HJinmVxrQQBBWXaWABbkR%40HnVev1imbCiW2HnNaB9FE%3d

http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/eczema-atopic-dermatitis.html#

 

 

 

Your Toddler

Thumb Sucking and Nail Biting Linked to Fewer Allergies

1:30

An interesting new study out of New Zealand suggests that young children who suck their thumbs or bite their nails may be at a lower risk for developing allergies.

The study included data from 1000 children born in New Zealand in 1972 or 1973, and spanned three decades.

While the results of the study suggests these habits may lower children’s risks of developing allergies, researchers noted that they are not recommending that kids take up these habits, only that the habits may play a role protecting them against allergies into adulthood.

 "Many parents discourage these habits, and we do not have enough evidence to [advise they] change this," said Dr. Robert Hancox, an associate professor of respiratory epidemiology at the University of Otago in New Zealand. "We certainly don't recommend encouraging nail-biting or thumb-sucking, but perhaps if a child has one of these habits and [it] is difficult [for them] to stop, there is some consolation in the knowledge that it might reduce their risk of allergies.”

The researchers asked the parents of the children participating in the study about their kids’ thumb-sucking habits and nail-biting habits four times: when the kids were 5, 7, 9 and 11 years old. Researchers also tested the children for allergies using a skin-prick test when they were 13, and then followed up with the kids again when they were 32.

It turned out that 38 percent of the children who had sucked their thumbs or bit their nails had at least one allergy, whereas among kids who did not have these habits, 49 percent had at least one allergy.

Moreover, the link between these childhood habits and a lower risk of allergies was still present among the study participants when they were 32 years old. The link persisted even when the researchers took into account potentially confounding factors that may also affect a person's risk of allergies, such as whether their parents had allergies, whether they owned pets, whether they were breast-fed as infants and whether their parents smoked.

By the time the children were 13 years old, researchers found that the ones who both sucked their thumbs and bit their nails were even less likely to have allergies compared with children who had just one of the two habits. However, by the time they were 32, this association was no longer found.

The study was published in the July edition of the journal Pediatrics.

The results of this study are inline with another study published in 2013, which found that children whose mothers sucked their kids’ pacifiers clean had a lower risk of developing allergies.

"Although the mechanism and age of exposure [to pathogens] are different, both studies suggest that the immune response and risk of allergies may be influenced by exposure to oral bacteria or other microbes," the researchers wrote in the new study.

The new findings also lend support the so-called hygiene hypothesis, which holds that environments that have too little dirt and germs may make children more susceptible to certain conditions, including allergies. It seems that "exposure to microbial organisms influences our immune system and makes us less likely to develop allergies," Hancox told Live Science.

Kids that suck their thumbs or bite their nails, receive mixed reactions from adults. Most adults will encourage kids to stop biting their nails, while it’s probably 50/50 on the thumb sucking. Either way, it appears that oral bacteria may play a role in lowering the risks of developing allergies in kids.

Story source: Agata Blaszczak-Boxe, http://www.livescience.com/55340-children-thumb-sucking-nail-biting-allergy-risk.html

 

Your Baby

High-Sugar Intake During Mom’s Pregnancy May Double Child’s Risk of Asthma

2:00

It’s no secret that moms-to-be often develop a sweet tooth during pregnancy, but new information suggests high-sugar foods and drinks may double their child’s risk for developing asthma and allergies later in life.

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London used data gathered from nearly 9,000 mother-child pairs in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, an ongoing research project that tracks the health of families with children born between April 1, 1991, and December 31, 1992.

During the study, the participating pregnant women were asked about their weekly intake of certain foods and specific food items including sugar, coffee and tea. Their responses were used to calculate their intake of added sugar.

The researchers only saw weak evidence to suggest a link between women’s added sugar intake and their children’s chances of developing asthma overall. But when they looked specifically at allergic asthma—in which an asthma diagnosis is accompanied by a positive skin test for allergens—the link was much stronger. Children whose moms were in the top fifth for added sugar during pregnancy were twice as likely to have allergic asthma when compared to children whose moms were in the bottom fifth.

Children of mothers with the high-sugar diets were 38% more likely to test positive for an allergen and 73% more likely to test positive for more than one allergen, compared to those kids whose moms stayed away from added sugar.

"The dramatic 'epidemic' of asthma and allergies in the West in the last 50 years is still largely unexplained -- one potential culprit is a change in diet," said Annabelle Bedard, lead author and a postdoctoral fellow at Queen Mary's Centre for Primary Care and Public Health Blizard Institute. "Intake of free sugar and high fructose corn syrup has increased substantially over this period."

As with most studies, a cause and effect was not established, only an association. The study’s authors believe that the association is strong enough to warrant further investigation.

Lead researcher Professor Seif Shaheen  said: "We cannot say on the basis of these observations that a high intake of sugar by mothers in pregnancy is definitely causing allergy and allergic asthma in their offspring.

"However, given the extremely high consumption of sugar in the West, we will certainly be investigating this hypothesis further with some urgency.”

There are many health reasons why pregnant women should limit their intake of high-calorie and sugary foods and drinks. This research suggests that it may be prudent for the health of their unborn child as well.

Story sources: Susan Scutti, http://edition.cnn.com/2017/07/05/health/sugar-pregnancy-child-allergy-asthma-study/index.html

 Henry Bodkin, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/07/06/high-sugar-intake-pregnancy-linked-double-risk-child-asthma/

Daily Dose

Spring Allergies

1:30 to read

It is definitely allergy season around the country. The weird weather this year has made all things blooming start early, with sky high pollen counts. Some areas have had a few recent super cold days, but warmer temperatures are starting again.  While the cherry blossoms really suffered, the oak, elm, mulberry and ash trees are all just starting to spread their pollens and causing a lot of runny noses, itchy eyes and scratchy throats.

 

If you know that your child is a spring allergy sufferer or if they seem to be developing allergy symptoms (which often occurs after the age of 2 years), there are many products now available over the counter.  The mainstay of allergy treatment is the use of nasal steroids, which actually act as a preventative. They are used on a daily basis during allergy season.  There are many different nasal steroid sprays available including Flonase, Nasacort, Nasonex and Rhinocort.  Both Flonase and Nasacort now have a children’s brand and may be used in children as young as 2 years. While the word “steroid” scares many parents, these steroids are not “the bad”  ones associated with bodybuilding. The steroid is sprayed directly into the nasal lining and therefore very little is absorbed systemically, so there are few side effects. Some children do not like sprays and “water up their nose”, but each brand is a bit different in how it is delivered, so you might switch around and see which brand is easiest to use.

 

Many of the allergy symptoms that occur including the runny nose and watery eyes are related to the allergic cascade and histamines that the body produces in response to exposure to the pollen.  So….anti-histamines are also a mainstay of treatment. Again, many of the previous prescription anti-histamines are now all available over the counter. This class of drugs includes second generation non sedating anti-histamines such as Allegra, Zyrtec and Claritin and now the newest Xyzal.  First generation anti-histamines are more likely to cause drowsiness and sedation and the best known of these is Benadryl (diphenhydramine).  For those with severe allergy symptoms I sometimes use a morning non-sedating anti-histamine followed by Benadryl at bedtime. 

 

For those children who have significant allergies, particularly year round, and who do to respond well to typical treatment with nose sprays and antihistamines, it may be time to see a pediatric allergist. I recently sent one young boy for allergy testing. The testing is usually well tolerated and not painful.  When I saw him for follow up he told me he had gone to the “pokemon” doctor…as he had gotten lots of pokes on his back!! 

 

 

 

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Your Baby

Having a Baby? Keep Your Pets!

1:00

In a world full of allergens, you might think that having pets around could only make things worse.  But according to a new study from Canada, families with dogs and cats may unwittingly be protecting their infant children from not only allergies but obesity as well.

University of Alberta epidemiologist Anita Kozyrskyj and a team of researchers analyzed more than 700 Canadian children. They found babies exposed to pets while in the womb or up to three months recorded an "abundance" of ruminococcus and oscillospira (both are bacteria found in the gut,) the latter of which is associated with leanness or lower body mass index, notes the study - published in the journal Microbiome.

Kozyrskyj said the two types of bacteria increased "twofold" when a pet was in the house. The team said the theory is that early exposure to bacteria — like that from a dog — creates a type of resistance.

Unborn babies can benefit from allergy resistance by being indirectly exposed through their mother’s womb. The microbes can pass from pet to mother to baby.

Even if a parent decides not to keep pets after the baby is born, if pets were in the house during the pregnancy, the infant may gain some benefit anyway.

The findings also suggest pet exposure could cut down the risk of group B strep, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said could cause blood infection, pneumonia and meningitis in newborns. Doctors treat against group B strep by giving mothers antibiotics during the delivery process.

Dogs were shown to offer higher levels of the beneficial microbes.

Story source: Sean Rossman, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/04/07/why-owning-pet-could-protect-your-baby-obesity-and-allergies/100162098/#

Daily Dose

Pink Eye

1:30 to read

This is another time of the year that I see a lot “pink eye”.  Any time the eye is pink..you have “pink eye”, which mothers seem to be quite confused by!!   They often comment…”this is pink eye?” , to which I respond, “well, the child’s eye (conjunctiva) is pink (red), so yes…this is pink eye”.  The term is just a description of the eye….but then you need to determine why the eye is “pink”.

 

Conjunctivitis is one of the most common causes of a pink eye….and there are many different types of conjunctivitis.  As with any condition the history is really important in helping to determine why a child’s eye is inflamed.  Several of the most common causes of the “pink eye” are bacterial, viral and allergic conjunctivitis.

 

Bacterial conjunctivitis often shows up in younger children and they have lots of matting of the eye lids and lashes and a mucopurulent discharge (gooey eyes). Some moms say that the “goo of gunk” comes as quickly as they can wipe it.  The child often has a lot of tearing and will rub the eyes as they feel that something is in their eye and it is irritated.  Bacterial conjunctivitis will typically resolve in 8 -10 days on its own, but antibiotic eye drops are used to shorten the course  of the pink eye and also reduce the contagiousness.  It seems as if every child in a day care class room will get conjunctivitis as they constantly rub their eyes and touch toys!!  Hand washing helps….but you can’t wash a child’s hands every time they touch their eyes.

 

Viral conjunctivitis usually occurs in combination of with systemic viral illness. Sore throat, fever and bright red eye are often seen in older children and teens and is due to adenovirus.  While the eye is red, the discharge is typically watery and matting is much less common. These patients are contagious for up to 12 days so it is important to practice good eye/hand hygiene, especially in the household. Artificial tears may help the feeling of eye irritation, but antibacterial eye drops rarely help except in cases of a secondary infection.  I get many phone calls from parents saying, “we tried prescription eye drops and they are not working”. I make sure to tell my older patients to take out their contacts and wear glasses for 7-10 days.

 

At this time of year I am also seeing a lot of seasonal allergic conjunctivitis.  These children have intensely itchy and watery eyes, as well as swelling of the eyelids and area surrounding the eyes. They look like they have been crying for days as they are so swollen and miserable. Many also have a very watery nasal discharge. They do not have fever. Using over the counter medications for allergy control, such as nasal steroids and anti-histamines will help some of the allergic symptoms. There are also over the counter eye drops (Zaditor, Patanol) that help when used daily.  During the worst of the season I make sure that the child has daily hair wash and eyelash and eyebrow wash with dilute soapy water to make sure the pollen is removed after they have been playing outside. It is nearly impossible to keep a child indoors for the 6 or more weeks of allergy season!

 

Daily Dose

Spring Allergies

1:30 to read

I just came in from walking my dog and found myself sneezing and rubbing my nose….funny I didn’t think I had allergies!!  But, all of the pollen blowing around right now not only coats your car and yard, but is coating your nasal passages, eyes and being inhaled into your upper respiratory tract as well causing all sorts of issues with seasonal allergies.

This year is proving to be a big allergy season as most of the U.S. had a mild wet winter which is a perfect “storm” for spring allergies. Tree pollen is the biggest culprit right now, and depending where you live it may be oak, elm, mulberry, maple, pecan, aspen….. but all are producing pollen that are blowing in the spring wind.

At this time of the year many people think they have a cold rather than allergies, but there are several distinguishing features.  With a cold, which is due to a virus,  not only do you have a runny nose and cough, you often feel achey and may have a low grade fever and sore throat and the symptoms usually last for 7-10 days and then improve. With allergies you may have itchy or watery eyes, and a clear runny nose which may sometimes trigger a cough, especially in children who have underlying asthma. You may also find that your child has 2 bad days, then several good days rather than continuous symptoms like a cold. Even though seasonal allergies are often called “hayfever” there is no fever associated with allergies. Many a parent with a 2 year old comes into the office with their child complaining of a fever of 102, runny nose and cough, and they think their child may have allergies and can go to school…..not so.

Seasonal allergies in children typically present between the ages of 2  - 6 years and occur in up to 10 - 15% of children. Parents may start to notice that their child always has red rimmed eyes and runny nose in March, April as tree pollens emerge, or are worse in June as grass pollen becomes an issue…. all pointing towards allergies. 

Fortunately, many of the best products to help prevent and control seasonal allergies are available over the counter.  Anti-histamines are the mainstay for allergies for those who have occasional problems. There are both older sedating anti-histamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and newer non-sedating medications such as loratadine (Claritin), cetirizine  (Zyrtec), fexofenadine (Allegra).  All come in both liquid and pill form and some have orally disintegrating tablets which are wonderful for a young child who cannot yet swallow a pill but balks at liquid medications.  (Good time to also discuss how to swallow a pill!).  

For children who have known seasonal allergies or ongoing issues I encourage daily steroid nasal spray use - which is a preventative measure to help block the allergic cascade from occurring. You can now buy fluticasone ( Flonase), Mometasone (Nasonex), budesonide (Rhinocort) and triamcinolone (Nascort) all over the counter. Even a young child over the age of 4 years  (they are often used in even younger children when prescribed by your pediatrician) may use a steroid nasal spray daily during allergy seaon.   Using these nose sprays for extended periods of time has been associated with a slight decrease in growth velocity while being used, so discuss this with your pediatrician. 

I typically also recommend a nasal saline solution like Little Remedies to irrigate the nose before using the steroid spray. Not only does this help to wash out any pollen that has adhered inside the nostril, it clears the airway so that the steroid nasal spray may be more effective. Teaching your child to blow their nose after irrigating it is a huge milestone as well, and helps prevent ear infections and sinus infections….keep practicing blowing.

Playing outside at this time of year is always encouraged, but if your child seems to be developing allergies make sure to bathe them and wash their hair (and eyelashes)  when they come in at the end of the day. Irrigate their nose, use a daily OTC steroid nasal spray, add  OTC antihistamines and see how they do. If they have continued problems time for a visit to your pediatrician to look at other options.

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Daily Dose

Special Series: Food Allergies

2.00 to read

We continue our special series on allergies. This time we look at food allergies and how they are diagnosed.We continue our series on allergies and this time we shift the focus on food allergies. This topic was top of mind for a mom who sent us an email question via our free iPhone app. She wrote “could my 9 year old daughter be allergic to strawberries as she gets a stomach ache and sometimes vomits after she eats them?  She has not had problems eating strawberries before." This is very interesting because I have been reading & reviewing several articles on food allergies and their diagnosis.

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One was in JAMA (I saved the May  2010 issue for research) and another was in the March issue of Consultant for Pediatricians. Both of these articles emphasized that there continues to be a great deal of confusion and lack of uniformity for diagnosing food allergies. Food allergy is also not uniformly defined, but according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), it is an “adverse immune response that occurs on exposure to a given food and is distinct from other adverse responses to food such as food intolerance.”  Statistics show that somewhere between 1%-2% of the population may have food allergies.  It is also unclear if food allergies are on the rise, as data on this is conflicting. With all of that being said, it sounds more like this child has developed an intolerance to strawberries rather than an allergic response.  It would be important to get more history such as what else she has eaten with the strawberries when this occurs, if the symptoms are always the same and are there any other problems associated with the ingestion. Specifically, does she complain of hives, itching, swelling of her tongue, lips or difficulty breathing? Does she have problems with any other foods? I also wonder if she has the same symptoms if she picks fresh strawberries or if they are from the store or if they are frozen. In other words, like so many things in medicine a good history is probably the most important part of this “strawberry story”. If she continues to have problems and her symptoms, this sounds more like intolerance than a true allergic reaction she can just avoid the strawberries (not much fun, especially in the summer). She might also check with her pediatrician about doing a blood test for IgE antibodies to strawberries.  A food intolerance would not have an increase in IgE antibodies as it is not an allergic reaction.  If confusion persists she could be referred to a pediatric allergist for further evaluation and even an oral food challenge. There continues to be a great many studies surrounding the etiology of food allergies, and I will keep you posted as new information is presented. That's your daily dose for today.  We'll chat again tomorrow. What do you think?  Send your question or comment to me!

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