Articles and Updates from Phoenix Children's
When Phoenix Children’s Allergy and Immunology Clinic opened its doors 10 years ago, Cindy Bauer, MD, section chief and medical director of Allergy and Immunology, didn’t know how great the demand for care would prove to be.
"When we established the Allergy and Immunology Clinic, we knew it would fill a need for the community, but I don’t think anyone expected the array of services and coordinated care that would transpire,” said Dr. Bauer.
"Since 2013, there has never been a day in which our clinics didn’t fill with patients struggling with asthma, food allergy, atopic dermatitis, seasonal allergies, drug allergies, immune deficiencies and much more,” explained Dr. Bauer.
Five-year-old Zoe has sparkling brown eyes and a smile that lights up the room. She loves to dance, and she just started kindergarten. She also has severe eczema, multiple food allergies and eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE). Specialists at the Allergy and Immunology Clinic are helping ensure Zoe’s diagnoses don’t limit her life. According to Zoe’s mom, Michele Gaines, the difference in Zoe’s health has been “transformative” since beginning care at Phoenix Children’s.
“I first met Zoe when she was two years old,” said Dr. Bauer. “She had severe allergic conditions ranging from food allergies to widespread atopic dermatitis. She also was not growing well.”
“Even when she was a baby, Zoe had a lot of dry skin,” said Michele, “Once we introduced solids, we really noticed a reaction to some foods – like eggs, for example. She got hives right away.”
“Zoe struggled with asthma and severe eczema. I'm not talking about a patch or two, I mean severely debilitating to the point where she couldn't sleep at night,” continued Michele. “She couldn't have a very good quality of life because she was always scratching. Then the scratching would cause skin infections, and the skin infections would require antibiotics. It was this vicious cycle. She was like your typical asthma, allergy, eczema trifecta.”
Dr. Bauer explained, “The impact of allergic conditions on the day-to-day life of children like Zoe can be substantial and truly detrimental to one’s quality of life.”
“As a parent, it's incredibly devastating when your kids are suffering or when your kids are miserable,” explained Michele. “These are not minor health issues. Asthma can be life-threatening. Food allergies can be life-threatening. You're constantly on edge as a parent trying to ensure your kid is safe.”
Multidisciplinary specialty clinics meet a wide range of needs
The Allergy and Immunology Clinic’s services and locations have expanded over the past decade as diverse needs in the community were identified and addressed.
According to Dr. Bauer, services are expected to be available in four locations by the end of 2023, including:
- Phoenix Children’s Hospital – Thomas Campus
- Phoenix Children's Specialty Care – East Valley
- Phoenix Children’s Specialty Care – Avondale Campus
- Phoenix Children's Specialty Care – Arrowhead Campus
“It has been very natural to expand the clinic’s services. In addition to our locations, over the years we have also grown the multidisciplinary clinics offered at the Thomas Campus” said Dr. Bauer.
“Collaborating with the other specialists, for example, we realized it would be helpful to have a combined allergy and dermatology clinic where the two specialties could see complex patients together. As such, the Combined Allergy and Dermatology Clinic was born. Then, when working with hematologists, oncologists and transplant specialists, we realized we needed to do more to treat patients with immune deficiencies, and so the Immunohematology Clinic was created,” she explained.
“Finally, working with the gastroenterologists and nutritionists, we saw that patients with complex eosinophilic disorders would be better served if seen together. So, the Eosinophilic Gastrointestinal Disease Clinic was formed,” added Dr. Bauer.
As a result, the Allergy and Immunology Clinic now offers a wide range of specialized care through 4 multidisciplinary clinics, including:
- Eosinophilic Gastrointestinal Disease (EGID) Clinic
- Immunohematology Clinic
- Severe Asthma Clinic
- Combined Allergy/Immunology and Dermatology (CAD) Clinic
In each, a team of various specialists collaborates to develop a personalized care plan that addresses your child’s unique health needs. The results can be life changing.
Where is Zoe Now?
“Typically, we'll go to the Allergy clinic every four weeks for Zoe’s shot, a medication that helps suppress the allergens that go into overdrive. The treatment helps her skin tremendously. Within a week of being on that medication, it was like magic. I was shocked at how it cleared up her skin,” said Michele.
“Zoe has improved dramatically since starting her current medication,” said Dr. Bauer. “It has been quite a journey for her. Despite the fear of the injections, she has been strong, and I’m so pleased with how well she’s doing.”
A one-stop shop for whole-patient care
“Allergies are often addressed initially in primary care offices,” said Dr. Bauer. “However, when the severity has crept up for eczema, asthma or environmental allergens, we can offer additional personalized treatment that takes into account all the allergic conditions the child has. That's where I think having an allergy specialist is helpful.”
“The great thing about the Allergy and Immunology Clinic is that we can blend together all of the allergic conditions in one visit and sometimes combine treatment,” added Dr. Bauer. “We’re a one-stop shop that offers big-picture care.”
“With the current treatment, Zoe is growing, eating and even sleeping better,” said Dr. Bauer. “Remembering where she was at the age of 2, I cannot believe how far she has come.”
“Zoe still struggles with eczema, but it's much more controlled now,” Michele explained. “She can wear short sleeves. She doesn't have to wear socks on her hands. She can wear shorts and doesn't have to cover all her skin now. She can be a normal kid who gets to participate in life instead of being completely miserable. The children who are in this clinic are so resilient, and I'm so grateful that Phoenix Children’s exists.”