Although some pediatricians treat allergies, you’ll likely be referred to an allergist for treatment. (Go to the AAAAI to find a doctor in your area.)
Be prepared to give a history of your child’s symptoms and medical treatment. She will want to know whether there were symptoms in early childhood, such as in the first and second year of life, whether the symptoms are on-going or episodic, whether they correspond with the season and whether they are getting worse over time. Also bring a list of any allergy or asthma medications your child has been prescribed.
The process will include skin or blood tests, or both, to determine what your child is reacting to. So if your child is sneezing at home, it may be dust she’s allergic to—not the family cat!
How the skin test works: the doctor will gently scratch your child’s skin and place a small amount of the suspected allergen onto the surface. If your child is allergic, antibodies will trigger a reaction in the skin, causing red patches.
If your child is prescribed immunotherapy, the allergists’ office will become quite familiar. During the “build-up” phase, your child will receive injections once or twice a week for about three to six months. (After each shot, you’ll be asked to wait for 30 minutes before leaving to be sure she does not experience a bad allergic reaction. In very rare instances, shots themselves cause anaphylaxis.) When an effective dose has been reached, your child will get “maintenance” doses with longer periods between shots—every two to four weeks. Symptoms may drop during the build-up phase, but it can take as long as 12 months on the maintenance dose to see good results. If the treatment is working, your child will probably stay on a maintenance shot for three to five years.
Risks to the treatment are unusual, but in some cases there is redness and swelling at the site of the injection.