Purpose: To update the primary care practitioner on the assessment of common childhood allergic illnesses.
Data sources: Relevant scientific literature and published clinical practice guidelines.
Conclusions: Atopic children often develop symptoms that occur in a predictable progression from atopic dermatitis to gastrointestinal disturbances, chronic serous otitis media, rhinitis, and asthma. Evaluation of allergic symptoms should be based on their chronicity, family history of atopy, and knowledge of how the information will change patient management. Both skin and blood testing are accurate and useful tools in establishing a diagnosis of allergic disease. Management includes avoidance/environmental control, medications, and, when necessary, referral to specialists.
Implications for practice: As the incidence of allergic disease increases, the human and monetary costs associated with allergies place a major burden on our healthcare system. Early identification of allergies and appropriate intervention are important to prevent progression to more significant disease. The use of objective diagnostic testing aids in implementing appropriate evidence-based medical management.