Sunday, February 06, 2011

Does Your Child Have Allergies or Asthma? Answers to the Most Common Questions Parents Ask (Part 2)

[NOTE FROM SUSAN: Click here to read Part 1 of this valuable article. And read on for Part 2!]

Allergists are trained to look for certain symptoms that are not obvious to parents or even to pediatricians or general practitioners.

Paul Ehrlich, M.D., and Larry Chiaramonte, M.D. are the authors of Asthma Allergies Children: A Parent's Guide. Here are their answers to the most common situations and questions they hear from parents asking about the problems that plague their children:

8. What can I do to relieve my child’s painful eczema so he (we!) can (both) get a good night’s sleep?

A: The itching of eczema is partly a function of severe dehydration of the skin as the immune system works overtime to combat allergy and infection. The fluids in the skin stop doing their normal work of keeping the tissue moist. The object is to get the skin rehydrated long enough to stop the itching and provide relief.

Start with a warm bath to hydrate the skin. Then coat the afflicted areas with a layer of Vaseline to trap the moisture already in the skin. Wrap the area with cotton gauze.

Now, wet a pair of cotton PJs, wring them out with your hands -- you want them wet enough to compensate for the dehydrating effects of any perspiration overnight but not so wet as to be uncomfortable or chilling -- and dress the child in them. Finally, put on another pair of dry cotton PJs.

You might also add half a cup to a cup of Clorox to a bathtub of water for toddlers and up -- for infants in a bassinette, use just an ounce -- bathe with the face out of the water for ten minutes and then rinse with clean water. The reason for doing this is that when we scratch, the staph germs that sit on all our skins get into the skin when we scratch, which causes infections.

9. Why do allergies seem to be more common than they used to?

A: The most convincing explanation is called the “hygiene hypothesis.” Allergies are a response by the immune system, which evolved to attack parasites and other things that our ancestors faced in daily life. Now that we live in more hygienic environments, some of our immune systems have gone rogue -- attacking proteins in harmless substances that remind them of the parasites they were meant to fight.

10. How can I tell if my child has a food allergy?

A: No area of allergy science is more misunderstood than food allergies. People attribute all kinds of symptoms to food allergies -- headaches, bad moods, depression, and many others. True food allergy involves a very limited number of symptoms. Mild symptoms include: Itchy mouth, few hives around mouth/face, mild itch, or mild nausea/discomfort.

Severe food allergy symptoms include: Shortness of breath, wheeze, repetitive cough; pale or bluish skin, fainting, weak pulse, dizziness or confusion, tight throat, hoarseness, trouble breathing/swallowing obstructive swelling (tongue and/or lips) and lots of hives over much of the body, vomiting and abdominal cramps, rashes, and swelling.

11. Will asthma keep my child from playing sports?

A: First of all, a very high percentage of elite athletes also have asthma. David Beckham and Kristi Yamaguchi are probably the most prominent. Asthmatics play all kinds of sports. That said, it is very important that you work to keep your child’s asthma under control using medications as prescribed by a qualified specialist and taking precautions in warming up.

12. How do I know if my child’s asthma is under control?

A: Many asthmatics think that if they are not currently wheezing or coughing, their asthma is under control. They are wrong. They can still have underlying inflammation that can be triggered by any number of things, including polluted air, pollen, cold air, and so on. If they have to rely on a relief inhaler, their asthma is not controlled.

13. Are inhaled corticosteroids, which the doctor prescribes for my asthma, the same as the steroids athletes use?

A: No. They are derived from different parts of the body. They will not make your muscles grow, cause ╩╝roid rage or any of the other symptoms. They are very safe and work only in the lung tissues where they are supposed to. The health benefits, such as better performance and attendance at school and work, and preventing chronic, destructive inflammation, far outweigh any of the very small side effects listed on the package.

The bottom line? The most important thing that parents can do is to see an allergy specialist. Get a referral or get an appointment; do whatever it takes. Seeing a specialist is to best way to make sure your child gets the best and most effective treatment.

This information and more can be found in Asthma Allergies Children: A Parent's Guide, by Paul Ehrlich, M.D., Larry Chiaramonte, M.D. with Henry Ehrlich. Available in bookstores nationwide and online at Amazon (in paperback or for Kindle) and Barnes & Noble (paperback). For more information, visit


  1. As one who has suffered horribly since birth from ALL kinds of allergy diagnosis, this is a true & wonderful piece to share for all to know, Susan.

    Have a beautiful weekend ~
    TTFN ~

    Giveaway ends Feb.11th

  2. Thanks for joining Good Friends Just Click- I hope you'll join us again on Tuesday!! I'm GFC following (sorry so late, my kids have been crazy sick).

  3. Oh wow - it can all be so confusing for sure. Our little boy has several severe allergies that we carry an EpiPen for and totally avoid those foods of course! But when he was a baby, he had the worst eczema and no one had any answers for us. We took him to several doctors, a children's hospital, an endo, gastro specialist and even holistic health professionals. There was not one person who could help us figure out what was causing this, how to help him or what to do and it was very frustration! So many allergy tests were inaccurate and we tried the elimination diet with him. Finally the one and only thing to help him was when we gave him his Belly Boost children's probiotic! It started to help within a few weeks and his skin cleared up - plus we were able to introduce foods he had never even had! I really agree that the hygiene hypothesis is important to consider and that sometimes our gut bacteria needs balanced, and our immune system needs boosted up! p.s. love the Chicken Soup Books!!

  4. Thank you so much for this article. I've copied the main points in it and am going to study it and follow the advice. Thank you also for your comment, smilinggreenmom. I am going to purchase some probiotics immediately and give some to my daughter and take some myself as we both suffer from food allergies. My main problem is finding a dairy free, soy free probiotic. It seems that such a probiotic is more difficult to locate in my area anyway. Thanks again so much.


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