[updated April 2019]
When I was in medical school one of the most intimidating presences by the bedside of a young child in the hospital wasn’t my professors asking me questions – it was the patient’s mom asking me tough questions.
Why? The moms seemed to know their child’s health and status better than I could ever imagine. I swore I wouldn’t go into pediatrics because how could I ever be a better doctor than “doctor mom”.
Well, after a lot of years of medical training of allergy and immunology in the hospital and in private practice – I feel moms and I are on equal footing. I think I have a lot to offer their children that suffer from food and environmental allergies. But I still listen really carefully because I know that no one knows their child better than they do!
This is why I think it’s so important that moms know about the term, “The Allergic March”. The Allergic March describes how young infants and children that present with allergic signs and symptoms: rashes such as eczema, chronic nasal congestion, and runny noses plus possible food allergies can develop later on in life chronic respiratory diseases, such as asthma or chronic sinusitis.
We use to hear a lot that “ children will outgrow their allergies” but the current medical research is indicating that early signs of allergy don’t always go away and in fact can come back stronger later in adulthood.
The increase in allergies in general as I mentioned in my book, Dr. Dean Mitchell’s Allergy and Asthma Solution: The Ultimate Program for Reversing Your Symptoms One Drop at a Time discusses the Hygiene Hypothesis as one of the best theories as to why allergies are so pervasive today.
The main gist of the hypothesis is that our environmental factors: excessive antibiotic use, lack of exposure to good microbes in the soil and dietary changes have caused the increase in allergies.
Most Common Allergic Signs
The main allergic signs and symptoms to watch out for are:
- Eczema (the medical term is atopic dermatitis): this is typically a very itchy red rash that an infant or child can develop on the face and extremities – mainly the flexor areas of the elbow and knees.
- Rhinitis: this is typically the chronic nasal congestion, sneezing or a runny nose that allergic children suffer with. Children that have severe symptoms can develop the “allergic salute”; this is where the back of their hand is constantly rubbing their nose so it looks like they are doing a military salute.
- Wheezing: a child that wheezes doesn’t necessarily have asthma. But if he has allergic parents and begins to have persistent wheezing with colds this can be an indicator for developing asthma later in life.
- Food allergies: we all know that food allergies have become more common. Peanut allergy being the most well-known, but egg, milk, and wheat allergy are also quite prevalent. A child may be fortunate to outgrow a food allergy such as milk, but they are still at risk for developing other allergic conditions later on (allergic march).
Allergy testing is not only appropriate but important to do in these young children with the above conditions. Why? Because if they are clearly identified as allergic, then a plan of action can be developed to minimize allergen exposure and also consider medical intervention to reduce symptoms and prevent more severe allergies from developing later on.
The typical antihistamines used to treat allergies such as Claritin, Allegra and Zyrtec are really just band-aids for the problem. They may give symptomatic relief but they don’t treat the underlying immune changes that allergies can cause.
Allergy Treatment (It Doesn’t Have to Hurt)
This is why I and many other allergy experts believe it is critical to identify these children and offer them allergen immunotherapy. The great news for the kids and the parents is that with the advances in allergy today sublingual allergy drops can be used to treat children with environmental allergies to desensitize them and prevent future allergies and asthma. You can take my word for this or read my book as mentioned above that discusses this treatment in depth.
The bottom line is that you can stop the Allergic March in its tracks with time-sensitive allergy treatment.
– Dr. Dean Mitchell, M.D.
Mitchell Medical Group, NYC
Dr. Dean Mitchell, M.D. is a Board Certified Allergist and Immunologist based out of NYC. He graduated from the Sackler School of Medicine and completed training at the Robert Cooke Allergy Institute in New York City. He is also a Clinical Assistant Professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, a fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, and the author of Dr. Dean Mitchell’s Allergy and Asthma Solution: The Ultimate Program for Reversing Your Symptoms One Drop at a Time. Dr. Dean Mitchell, M.D. has also been featured in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Fitness Magazine, Dr. Oz and News NY 1. Dr. Mitchell also hosts the podcast The Smartest Doctor in the Room – a combination of a lively, personal and in-depth interview with top healthcare specialists.