Pediatric allergy and immunology is the study of allergy and immune system disorders in children. Allergies are mild to severe physical reactions to certain substances called 'allergens' due to an overactive immune system. Other immune conditions weaken the immune system (immunodeficiency) or mistakenly damage the body (autoimmune disease).
Pediatric allergists and immunologists diagnose children's allergies and immune disorders, prescribe management plans, and may conduct clinical research to optimize allergy and immunology treatments.
Conditions that pediatric allergists and immunologists treat include:
Pediatric allergies can be diagnosed through skin tests, where common allergens are exposed to the skin to assess physical reaction. Another method is diagnosis by blood test. Common clinical treatments for childhood allergies include antihistamine prescription (suppresses the immune system), and asthma therapies (such as use of an inhaler). Allergy immunotherapy decreases immune sensitivity through intentional exposure to known allergens, and is administered by injection or pill.
Autoimmune disorders may be identified through blood tests, as well as genetic testing. Immunodeficiency is addressed by preventing infections, and by strengthening the child's immune system with injection of antibodies, also known as antibody replacement. Severe immune deficiency disorders may require advanced stem cell or bone marrow transplant. Immune diseases like lupus, type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis are controlled with disease-specific medication and treatment plans.
Comprehensive pediatric allergy and immunology treatment considers a child's age, lifestyle, and environment. Pediatric allergists educate children and their families on handling extreme reactions like anaphylaxis. Caregivers are instructed on how to avoid known allergens and administer epinephrine, the active ingredient in products like Epi-Pen. Treatment for immune disorders similarly aims to engage families, but may also involve additional medical professionals specialized in the child's immune condition. Pediatric care programs monitor allergy and immune disorders over a course of years, and may attempt to mitigate their reemergence in adulthood.