Allergy is a complex condition. There are many different types of allergy your child could suffer from caused by various allergens. Almost anything can be an allergen to someone. Depending on how the body gets in contact with an allergen a classification can be made in types of allergies. For example by inhalation of allergens (inhalation allergy), by eating certain types of food (food allergy) and/or by using certain kinds of medication (drug allergy). An allergic reaction of the skin as a result of contact with a particular allergen is called contact allergy. A skin reaction can also be the result of insect venom. Allergy symptoms can also differ from person to person.
Medical history means the medical history of a person in relation to allergic conditions. It is one of the most important tools the physician can use to determine if your child has an allergic condition or not. The doctor will ask questions in relation to the medical history of your child during an extensive interview. All health aspects are discussed from birth up to the time of the consultation. Sometimes you need to fill out a questionnaire in preparation of the consultation, this is not always the case.
Most people are not used to think about symptoms in a structured manner and find it difficult to answer some questions. Not all children are able to tell adequately what they feel and what they suffer from. As a result it is not always easy to determine a diagnosis.
The main symptoms
During the interview the doctor will look for the most prominent symptom(s), doctors also refer to this as the main symptom(s). To determine the main symptom(s) the doctor will ask, among other things, the following questions:
- Describe the symptom(s) as accurately as possible
- How long (period of time) do these symptoms exist?
- Where are the symptoms located? (for example: in the eyes, the nose, the mouth/pharynx, lungs, skin and/or the gastro-intestinal tract)
- How severe are the symptoms, to which extent do they restrict the functioning of your child? (for example: are the symptoms always severe? are the symptoms always the same?)
- Where does your child suffer the most? (for example: indoors, outdoors, at home or at school)
- When does your child suffer the most? (for example: throughout the year, when in contact with certain substances, when waking up, throughout the day, in which months?)
- Is your child previously treated for the same problem/symptoms? If yes, what did the treatment look like and what was the result?
During the medical history you will also be asked about the growth and development of your child, possible sleep disorders, learning performance and/or – problems and the behavior of your child.
Family and environment
When in the process to determine if your child is suffering from an allergic disease, your family history will also be looked at. Heredity plays an important role in the development of an allergy. An allergy itself is not hereditary but the predisposition to develop an allergy is. This is called atopy. The table on page what is allergy? shows an overview of the risk of developing an allergy within a family.
Allergies can be caused by many different allergens and so it is important not only to look at the symptoms but also consider the environment. Therefore you will be asked about the furnishing of your home and/or garden, the presence of pets (at home but also in family, the nanny and friends), your child’s diet, the hobbies and/or any sports that your child exercises.
After the medical history your child will get a physical examination. Depending on the symptoms the throat, nose and ears are examined, the heart and lungs are listened to and the skin and/or gastrointestinal tract will be examined. In addition the height and weight of your child will be measured.
When the doctor suspects that your child is suffering from an allergic disease, then there may be additional examinations planned, this is not always necessary. Additional examinations may include a blood test, a skin prick test, a lung function test or a food challenge test. In many cases it will be a combination of different examinations which, together with the medical history adds up to a final diagnosis.