How paediatricians help identify and treat childhood allergies
Dr Sophie Flammarion works as part of the paediatric team at our clinic. Here she discusses check-ups, immunisations and one of her specialisms, managing and treating childhood allergies.
Why might a parent consider a paediatrician for their child?
Thanks to our expertise in childhood illnesses and child development we can offer more targeted advice. We typically allocate more time to our young patients during appointments, and this allows us time to thoroughly assess the child, as well as being able to adopt a holistic approach to their health. And we can build a relationship not just with them but with their family, too.
If the focus is on immunisations, we can adapt to what the family wants – we don’t have to follow the NHS UK schedule. So this is ideal for families who’ve moved to the UK from elsewhere. We can split immunisations, too, if a parent prefers not to give their child too many on the same day.
What are the benefits of working within a paediatric team?
We’re a team of three at the clinic. If a family finds their paediatrician is unavailable, then they can always see someone with similar experience and access to all the child’s files. And often, families can be offered same day appointments.
Within the team we all have different specialisms. I deal with allergies and respiratory allergies. And because we work in a clinic, we can always refer our patients to someone else in the team if we feel they require that specific specialist knowledge. We work all together around the children and their family.
What is your approach to children’s healthcare?
Wherever possible, I work on prevention. So, it’s about trying to identify any potential problems before they turn into something more serious.
Most of the time during a check-up the child is healthy and well and we can reassure the family, and offer general advice on diet, vitamins and healthy habits. But if there is something a little bit more serious these regular reviews give us the opportunity to investigate further.
I recently saw a family who’d come to the clinic with their child for his immunisations. And as I was talking to them they said he’d lost a little weight. It turned out that he had actually developed diabetes. So just from seeing them in the clinic, and getting a bit of background, we were able to spot this, and our early diagnosis meant we could start treating the diabetes before it became more problematic.
At what age does a child typically show signs of an allergy?
A milk allergy can become apparent in the first days. And other food allergies may present themselves as early as four months when a child begins weaning. Many parents come with their babies to see if their child may be at risk of developing an allergy, and are curious to know what they should do with regards to introducing common allergens. I will advise them on what they can do if their child does have an allergic reaction.
What’s the difference between an allergy and an intolerance?
Allergies have a specific definition – it’s when the immune system reacts to an allergen such as a food or pollens. An intolerance is a wider term indicating an adverse reaction to a food, but the mechanisms are often unclear and there is a lack of tests to confirm the diagnosis.
And what about allergens from dust or pollen?
As a paediatrician, I can help parents to improve their child's symptoms and work out what is likely triggering the symptoms. Is it seasonal or perennial? A skin prick test carried out during the consultation can confirm the allergens involved. Then, I go through measures with the family to reduce the allergens and improve the symptoms. There are often quite simple solutions that mitigate the need to go to another specialist.
Immunotherapy works very well for pollen and dust mite allergies – it can clear the allergy rather than manage the symptoms. A child would have it for three years, and the treatment would be effective for several years.
Can paediatricians often spot problems that parents cannot?
Parents are usually a good judge of when something is not right. But because we spend so much time around our children, we might get used to certain symptoms. Doctors can often investigate the problem and get to the route of what might be wrong.
Appointments for your child
If you’d like to find out more or make an appointment with Dr Flammarion, please call 020 7244 4200 or make an appointment online.