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Kids and Allergies

Dr. Leah Chernin discusses the symptoms of nasal and ocular allergies for each season, how to avoid the triggers as much as possible and treatment options to help keep your child more comfortable even with allergies. Learn more about BayCare’s children’s health services.
Kids and Allergies
Leah R. Chernin, DO
Dr. Leah Chernin is board certified in allergy, immunology and pediatrics specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of asthma, allergic and immunologic diseases. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Florida and her medical degree from Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine. She completed her residence in pediatrics at Lutheran General Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois and her allergy and immunology fellowship at University Hospitals Richmond Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Dr. Chernin has spoken at the national level, published a book chapter and has had numerous publications in journals.

Learn more about Leah Chernin, DO

Melanie Cole (Host): Many children experience some form of allergies and finding out the triggers can help keep your children more comfortable. My guest today is Dr. Leah Chernin. She’s board certified in allergy, immunology and pediatrics specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of asthma, allergic and immunologic diseases with Baycare Health. Dr. Chernin, what is the difference? People hear seasonal allergies and different kinds of allergies and then food allergies. Tell us a little bit about how these are different.

Dr. Leah Chernin (Guest): So seasonal allergies are also called or known as inhalant allergies or airborne allergens. These are allergens such as pollen, mold, dust mites, cockroaches, and cat and dog dander. These types of allergies present with classically nose and eye symptoms. Food allergies on the other hand are immediate allergic reactions that occur after you consume a food that you are allergic to. Symptoms of food allergies can range from but are not limited to hives, swelling, respiratory symptoms like coughing or troubled breathing, GI symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea. You can get symptoms like dizziness or even loss of consciousness.

Host: So then you mentioned nasal and ocular allergies. So itchy eyes and runny nose and that those could be seasonal and/or things to like mold and insects and those kinds of things we find around the house. So how do we know? What are some of the signs and symptoms besides a runny nose and itchy eyes that we might notice?

Dr. Chernin: So the classic symptoms of allergens to things in the home are what you described, so watery eyes, itchy eyes, puffy eyelids, recurrent sneezing, congestion in your nose, chronic drainage down the back of your throat or postnasal drainage, or drainage out the front of the nose is what we classically see with seasonal and year round allergens in both children and adults.

Host: So then what happens next? If we notice that as a parent, Dr. Chernin, we bring them to an allergist such as yourself. What is the evaluation like? Because we used to hear that they had to get a lot of sticks and that it was uncomfortable and that you had to see what they’re allergic to. Is that still what we do? How does that work the evaluation?

Dr. Chernin: The most common and reliable testing is something called skin prick testing which is relatively comfortable for the patient, not horribly uncomfortable. The skin testing is most frequently done on the back or arm of the child. Prior to the testing you have to be off certain medications including antihistamines. The back or arm will be cleaned then numbered and then a small plastic toothpick device scratches the skin which introduces a very small amount of allergen under the skin. The allergen will then sit there for approximately 15 minutes, and if you’re allergic you will develop a red itchy bump that appears like a mosquito bite. Once you’ve had the allergy testing done the doctor will come in and interpret those results and will be able to go over with you what treatment options you have for your allergy.

Host: Okay so then let’s discuss some of those treatment options because there’s so many over the counter and a parent with a child who’s suffering from some of these things can look at all of these things and not know what they’re looking at. So what are we looking at?

Dr. Chernin: So in general there are nasal washes or nasal saline rinses that are available. There are over the counter antihistamine medications which come in pill form as well as liquid for children and there are now over the counter nasal steroids that are available. In addition there are also more nasal sprays that are available from prescriptions that your allergist could prescribe and also additional allergy tablets that your allergist could prescribe for you.

Host: Then what about at home? Once we’ve seen an allergist and you determined okay they’re allergic to dander or they’re allergic to dust mites or any of these other in home allergens, what do you want us to do at home because we hear about air purifiers or air filters, not sure if they really do the job or not. Tell us about neti pots and nasal lavage and give us some of the home things we can do.

Dr. Chernin: So based on what you’re allergic to, you can make different modifications within your home. Probably the most cost effective and effective measure you can make if you are allergic to something called dust mites, are getting allergy proof encasements for your pillow, box spring, and mattress of the bed. Additional options can include washing your sheets on the highest heat setting. If you’re allergic to an animal, decreasing your exposure to the animal. In the most ideal world you would probably find a new home for the pet but that’s not always the most realistic option for people who have animals. So keeping the animal out of your room and off your bed, trying to keep the animal off the couch are some options that you can deal with in your home, which are probably some of the more effective options that we have.

Host: What about neti pots and nasal lavage. It’s again not the most comfortable thing, especially trying to wrestle a kid into that but does it help?

Dr. Chernin: Yeah so neti pots or nasal lavages, nasal rinses can be effective in treating your symptoms; however, like you said, depending on the age of the child may kind of – it’s not always the easiest option for a younger child to have them do this. As the child gets older and teenagers, some of them tolerate it better and it can be an effective measure that they could use.

Host: What about environmental avoidance measures. You know we want our kids to play outside, Dr. Chernin, and we don’t want to stop them, but if it’s a seasonal allergy or to the leaves in the fall or any of those things. What do we do about that as far as identifying those triggers and keeping them clear of that?

Dr. Chernin: Once you know what you’re allergic to – you obviously want to let your child be a child and play outside, but when the pollen count is high you want to avoid hand to eye contact to decrease the amount of allergen that will come in to contact with the nose as well as the eyes. Once you come indoors, you probably want to have your child shower and wash their hair daily. If they’ve been outside for long periods of time then have them change their clothes and wash their clothes to decrease the amount of pollen that you’re bringing into the home.

Host: So as our children might have allergies, it can be often confused with conditions such as asthma where you do have to look outside and see not only maybe that pollen count but what the air quality is. Speak a little bit about asthma and what are some of the signs and symptoms that we might notice that might be different from allergies.

Dr. Chernin: So there is some overlap because some children who have nasal or nose allergies can also have asthma and drainage down the back of the throat can cause a child to cough. Children with asthma will have a more persistent cough. Frequently they will have nighttime awakeness due to cough. They can have shortness of breath or trouble breathing with activity, and sometimes these children have a history of wheezing with illnesses in the past or wheezing in general.

Host: Wow there’s so many things that can go on with our children. So wrap it up for us, Dr. Chernin, as an allergist, what would you like parents listening to take away from this segment and to know about allergies in their children, identifying those triggers so that we can make our children more comfortable.

Dr. Chernin: Allergies are very common in children as well as adults. If you have any concern that your child may have allergies, it would be appropriate to bring them to a board certified allergist who can do a detailed history, do a physical exam on your child and decide if allergy skin testing would be appropriate for them. After allergy skin testing is performed. If you find out that your child has allergies, they would be able to present you with all the treatment options including environmental avoidance measures, possible medications, and even allergy shots to determine what would be the best treatment plan for your child.

Host: Thank you so much for joining us and helping parents to know what some of those triggers are and giving us some really good home and lifestyle tips. Things that we can try at home to help make our children more comfortable if they suffer from allergies. You’re listening to Baycare Health Chat. For more information, please visit, that’s This is Melanie Cole, thanks so much for listening.