In this section
Asthma, allergy, and immunology conditions
At Children's, our team of specialists treats all conditions related to asthma, allergy, and immunology with compassion and expertise – for you, your child, and your whole family.
Asthma is a common, chronic lung condition that usually starts during childhood. Swelling causes the airways in the lungs to narrow. Symptoms include wheezing, tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, and coughing.
Asthma care at Children's Wisconsin
At Children's, our first step is to determine the extent of your child's (or your) asthma. The National Institute of Health has four classifications: intermittent, mild persistent, moderate persistent, or severe persistent. Once we determine how far the asthma has progressed, we can determine a course of treatment. While there's currently no cure for asthma, we help you manage the disease by avoiding triggers, taking the right medication, and using other management techniques.
Immune deficiency (or immunodeficiency) is a condition that affects your child's body's ability to fight disease. While most cases are triggered by infection, some children are born with immune disorders.
Immune deficiency care at Children's
As many immune deficiency disorders can be serious, early detection and treatment is key. At Children's, our special laboratory offers some of the most advanced testing in the country. Once we're able to properly identify you or your child's immune deficiency disorder, our team provides the full range of treatment options available.
Chronic nasal symptoms
Children and adults with frequent stuffy nose, runny nose, or post-nasal drip may have chronic nasal symptoms or rhinitis. These symptoms are often caused by irritation or inflammation of the mucus membrane in the nose. Other symptoms include sneezing, nasal itching, headache, and fatigue.
Chronic nasal symptoms (rhinitis) care at Children's
Many children and adults have problems with runny noses due to frequent colds or allergies. Our team begins by testing you or your child to determine if his or her nasal symptoms are chronic. Chronic nasal symptoms can be inherited or caused by environmental exposures. Our approach to treatment may include nasal irrigation, nose spray, and/or antibiotics, and avoidance to specific triggers.
Environmental allergies ("hay fever")
"Hay fever" is caused by an allergy to plant pollen or something in the environment that causes swelling of the nasal airways. It's a common allergy but moderate-to-severe reactions can limit you or your child's activity. Symptoms usually include sneezing, itching, and stuffy nose.
Environmental allergy ("hay fever") care at Children's
We perform either a skin test or a blood test to diagnose environmental allergies. Treatment may include nasal sprays to reduce swelling, oral medication, or allergy shots (also called allergen immunotherapy and avoidance of specific triggers). Our team works with you and your child to determine which treatment is the best fit.
Food and drug allergies
If you or your child have reactions to certain foods or medicines, the symptoms and severity of the reactions can vary widely. Unfortunately, there are no cures for these kinds of allergies. The only way for you or your child to avoid a reaction is to avoid contact with the food or medicine that causes it. There are, however, a variety of treatments, both short-term and long-term, to keep allergies manageable.
Food and drug allergy care at Children's
As a first step, our team of specialists performs tests to confirm suspected allergies. From there, we determine the best and safest treatment plan for each patient. For food allergies, this may include nutrition counseling from a dietitian who helps patients and their parents learn how to live with food allergies.
Skin allergies, like hives (urticaria) and eczema
Skin allergies occur when you or your child experiences an allergic reaction when certain substances come in direct contact with your skin. They can be caused by food or drugs, while others can be reactions to environment, such as cold or hot temperature or sunlight (ex. solar hives). Both hives (urticaria) and eczema are common skin allergies that cause skin to become red and itchy as well as swollen and/or flaky. Symptoms may occur due to skin irritation (such as clothes that itch or rub). Occasionally, symptoms may occur for no known reason.
Skin allergy care at Children's
We use your family's medical history and perform a physical exam to determine if you or your child has a skin allergy. If so, we consider many factors in determining the best course of treatment – including you or your child's age, overall health, the extent of their reaction(s), you or your child's tolerance for certain medications and therapies, as well as your own preferences and expectations for treatment.
Frequent sinus infections
The sinuses are facial cavities (or air pockets) lined with mucus membranes and located near the nose. Sinus infections or sinusitis often occur following a cold or allergic swelling. Mucus can become trapped in the sinuses, which allows bacteria to grow. Symptoms vary, but common symptoms include:
- Runny nose lasting longer than seven to ten days
- Green or yellow nasal discharge
- Headaches (or stuffy head)
- Bad breath
Frequent sinus infection care at Children's
At Children's, our team diagnoses sinus infections using sinus x-rays, CT scans, and cultures from the sinuses, where bacteria grown in lab tests help aid diagnosis. We then develop your child's treatment plan based on medical history, your child's tolerance for certain medications and therapies, as well as your own preferences and expectations for treatment. Common treatments include:
- Nasal spray to reduce inflammation
Severe allergic reactions, such as anaphylaxis
Severe allergic reactions can occur within seconds of exposure to an allergen – or up to 1-2 hours after. Anaphylaxis, also called anaphylactic shock, is a severe and sometimes life-threatening allergic reaction. It is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms include:
- Tightness or swelling of throat
- Severe itching of skin
- Difficulty breathing
- Nausea or vomiting
- Stomach pain
- Lowered blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Heart failure
Severe allergic reaction care at Children's
In cases of severe allergic reaction, our team usually tries to identify the specific trigger. If we already treat you or your child for allergies, we may instruct you in the use of an emergency kit that includes shots of epinephrine to keep with you in the event of severe reactions.
Eosinophilic esophagitis is an allergic inflammatory disease of the esophagus – the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach. The condition is also called allergic oesophagitis, and symptoms include difficulty swallowing, heartburn, and food becoming stuck in the throat.
Eosinophilic esophagitis care at Children's
First, we perform the allergy testing – including x-ray or endoscopy of the esophagus – and work with our GI department to confirm the diagnosis. We also perform allergy tests to see if any foods you or your child eats cause swelling in his or her esophagus. Treatment plans often include special diet and medicine.
Stinging insect allergies
Stinging insects, such as mosquitoes and bees, often cause mild to moderate skin irritation. An allergy to stinging insects may cause hives, or swelling and in severe cases, stinging insects may cause more dangerous reactions, such as swelling of the throat, dizziness, or anaphylaxis.
Stinging insect allergy care at Children's
Our team first tests you or your child to see if you, he or she is allergic to any stinging insects. If so, we teach you how to avoid the insects as much as possible, carrying an autoinjection of epinephrine, and if appropriate, we would recommend injections to cure the insect sting allergy (desensitization).
Hereditary Angioedema (HAE)
HAE is an inherited blood disorder marked by attacks of dramatic swelling that may affect the face, hands, feet, stomach, genitals, and upper airway. These can cause complications for you or your child. Upper airway swelling can cause breathing problems, while intestinal swelling may lead to stomach pain or vomiting.
Hereditary Angioedema (HAE) Care at Children's
Once an attack occurs, you or your child is given pain relief and fluids by an intravenous (IV) line to stabilize and reduce swelling. Our team evaluates you and your child's medical history and works with you to build a treatment plan that works for you, your child, and your family. Some medicines may help your child avoid swelling attacks.