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Treating allergic reactions in children

Our neighbour recently adopted a cat. Though I am an animal lover, I think my daughter is allergic to the cat. Subsequent to playing with the feline, she developed itching and a runny nose. Is there some way of finding out if she is allergic to cat hair/fur? —Preetha Kumar, Chennai

Dogs and cats emanate sticky allergens that remain in the air for long periods of time (43 days). However it’s the dander flakes of dead skin of dogs and cats which are more allergenic than their hair or fur. If your daughter has a history of allergy atopic constitution or has tested positive for an allergy test (skin prick test and specific IgE) conducted by a clinical allergist, it’s advisable for her not to play with your neighbour’s cat.

To be doubly sure she is allergic to cats, you can opt for provocation tests, in which avoidance of cats for three months will relieve her allergy symptoms, but re-exposure will prompt recurrence of symptoms. This will confirm if she is allergic to cats.

My five-year-old son seems to have a permanent cold and runny nose during summers. Recently, he has been complaining of ear pain. We moved to Bangalore last summer and my husband has noticed that this is the second summer that he has exhibited these symptoms. Please advise. — Shameel R. K, Bangalore

If your child has recurrent colds and runny nose without fever with seasonal exacerbation (April, May, June) even after administering symptomatic treatment consecutively for two-three years, it is advisable to perform a blood specific IgE test for indoor allergens (altrenaria, dust mites etc.). Please consult an allergy specialist. If the test is negative and you suspect viral or bacterial infection, consult your physician.

We eat sea prawns and other seafood at home regularly. My 12-year-old son has been eating them from childhood. However in the past two weeks he has complained of stomach pain after consuming prawns. He does not exhibit these symptoms after consuming fish. Is it possible to suddenly develop an allergy to a particular food? — Ardra Venugopal, Chennai

Food allergy symptoms occur within one hour of eating in the form of urticaria (hives all over the body) but food intolerance signs are only confined to the gastro-intestinal tract (abdominal pain etc). You can develop sudden allergies to particular foods — it depends on individual genetic susceptibility and external factors such as alcohol, painkillers, exercise etc. I suggest he eats fish in small amounts and gradually increases tolerance as advised by a clinical allergist.

We have recently moved back into our house after renovating it. My eight-year-old daughter has started showing allergic reactions right from the time we moved in again — sneezing, runny nose, etc. She was born here and has lived here from childhood. Is it possible to become suddenly allergic to the house that she has lived in for years? — Ananya Bhat, Mangalore

The symptoms of allergic reaction depend on the type of allergens sensitisation, concentration and duration of allergen exposure, and dose of allergen which enters the body. Please consult your physician for symptomatic treatment. If symptoms recur, even after symptomatic treatment, consult an allergy specialist to rule out sensitisation by SPT or blood test. If tests are positive, plan for allergen immunotherapy.

(Dr. P.C. Kathuria is a chest physical and allergy immunotherapy expert at the National Allergy Centre, New Delhi)

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