#1 Ranked Children’s Hospital by U.S. News & World Report
MyPatients provides referring primary care providers with secure access to their patients’ information.
Boston Children's has launched the world's 1st program dedicated to offering hand transplants to children who qualify.
Innovation insider is a semi-monthly e-newsletter analyzes innovations at Boston Children’s, other academic medical centers and from industry.
Read the latest blog by a Boston Children's doctor, clinician or staff member.
There are many ways you can help children and their families get the care they need.
Here at Boston Children’s Hospital, we specialize in innovative, family-centered care. From your first visit, you’ll work with a team of professionals who are committed to supporting all of your family’s physical and psychosocial needs.
We understand that you want to learn more about your child’s allergies to keep her safe and healthy.
What is an allergy?
Allergies are overreactions of the immune system. They happen when the immune system fights harmless foreign substances called allergens, such as dust mites, pollen, pet dander and food. Therefore, treatments are usually designed to suppress the allergic reaction so your child can be safely exposed to the allergens and/or treat the symptoms when they occur.
Visible allergy symptoms are the body’s reaction to inflammatory chemicals, such as histamines, cytokines or leukotrienes. Inflammatory chemicals are released from white blood cells to fight foreign substances in the body. Each time your child sneezes, or shows some symptom of an allergic reaction, her body is reacting to the allergen. Specifically, the immune system makes immunoglobin E (IgE) antibodies to the allergens, which causes mast cells to release chemicals such as histamines, cytokines and leukotrienes to fight the allergens. Essentially, the reaction between the IgE and the allergen triggers an allergic reaction.
The process is similar for food allergies. One difference is that with a food allergy, a child is more likely to have dermatologic (skin symptoms) and gastrointestinal symptoms, such as cramps, nausea and vomiting, than with an inhalant allergy.
What are some symptoms of an allergic reaction?
What are some allergens that may trigger an allergic reaction?
How do allergens enter the body?
Can I be genetically predisposed to allergies?
Patterns of allergies have been found in families; however, the specific genetic factors are not yet fully understood.
Q: What is the difference a regular allergy and a food allergy?
A: Food allergy is a type of allergy in which the immune system response is essentially the same. One difference is that a food allergy is more likely to trigger a dermatologic (skin) and gastrointestinal response, such as cramps, nausea and vomiting, than with an inhalant allergy.
Q: How serious are most childhood allergies?
A: Childhood allergies can have a significant impact on quality of life. Rarely, however, they can be life threatening if they’re serious and not treated, as they can affect the body’s vital functions, such as breathing.
Q: How do I know if my child needs treatment other than over-the-counter medication?
A: If the child still has symptoms even after properly taking the doctor recommended dosage of over-the-counter medications, then that would indicate they need additional treatment.
Q: What is treatment like?
A: There are several treatment options for your child’s allergies, such as immunotherapy (allergy shots), antihistamines, decongestants, topical steroid nasal sprays and finding ways to avoid the exposure to allergens. None of these treatment options involve hospitalization or surgery. The key to all these treatments is being vigilant about allergens that may affect your child.
Q: Where will my child be treated?
A:Children treated through our Allergy Program receive care in our clinic.
Q: Is my child safe to eat foods with none of the allergens in the ingredients?
A: It’s important to carefully read food labels to make sure that the product is not made in a factory with an allergen, such as peanut butter, as food cross-contamination could be a problem. Even though the allergen may not be an ingredient, it could be exposed to the allergen from another product made in the factory.
Q: Can my child outgrow their allergies?
A: A study in Sweden involving allergic rhinitis (hayfever) showed that participants still had the allergy 12 years later. The results of this study suggest that sometimes children may not be able to outgrow their allergies. It should be noted that hayfever allergy is not caused by hay. It is a term that includes allergies caused by pollen from trees, grasses and weeds.
Q: Can my child develop allergies later in life?
A: Yes, allergies can develop later in life as your child may be exposed to new allergens with a change of environment such as school or work.
Q: Is there a cure for allergies?
A: Immunotherapy can change the immune system so a child no longer has symptoms. So some patients might be “cured.” Children’s milk and peanut desensitization studies are working towards creating a cure for food allergies.
Neither Boston Children’s Hospital or the Allergy Program at Boston Children’s unreservedly endorses the information found at other websites mentioned on our Web pages.
After your child is diagnosed with an allergy, especially if it’s a food allergy, you may feel overwhelmed with information. It can be easy to lose track of the questions that occur to you.
Lots of parents find it helpful to jot down questions as they arise; that way, when you talk to your child’s doctors you can be sure that all of your questions are concerned. If your child is old enough, you may want to suggest that she writes down what she wants to ask her health care provider too.
Going to college is an exciting time, as it can be a time of freedom and personal discovery. For a teen with allergies, it could be a challenge as the environment is less controlled than in high school, and you live in close quarters with many other students. Learn some strategies for managing medical conditions at college and join this discussion on Children’s Thriving blog.
Being a teenager is tough, and even tougher with allergies. Learn how teenagers are adjusting to allergies on the dating scene. Children’s Hospital Boston has a place for you to be part of the conversation on issues that matter most to you. Join this conversation on Children’s Thriving blog.
Lynda Schneider, MD, director of Children’s Hospital Boston’s Allergy Program, dispels common misconceptions about food allergies.
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”