Allergies in Children- How do I know?
Dr Nandeesh B
Kalyan nagar, Bengaluru May 6, 2019
Living with an allergy can be very difficult, and when it comes to children suffering from allergies, it becomes even more challenging. No parent can see their child in such a condition. Allergies can victimize any child, but it is more commonly seen in children from families with a history of allergies.
As per reports, it shows differing prevalence by age, with younger children more liable to have skin allergies and older children more inclined to have respiratory allergies. You may notice skin-related symptoms in your younger ones, and your older children may conduce to hack and wheeze.
Allergies can grow in the process of your child’s ability to sleep well, play, and function in school. Here’s what to see for and how to discover if your child’s symptoms may be an allergy.
What is an allergic reaction?
An allergic reaction is nothing but an immune response (overreacts) to substances like pollen, certain food items like peanuts, or pet dander. The mast cells (cells that fight foreign particles) present in the nasal lining mistakes few things as a threat to the system (as dangerous pathogens) and release chemicals like histamine that triggers the reaction. As histamines trigger the immune system, it causes symptoms of an allergic reaction like a runny nose, constant sneezing, watery eyes, coughing, rashes, hives, etc. The healthcare specialist may prescribe medications like antihistamines or corticosteroid nasal sprays to deal with this problem.
What are the common allergens?
Allergens are divided into four categories:
- Irritants: E.g., smoke, perfume, air conditioner, car exhaust, etc.
- Foods: E.g., nuts, MSG, eggs, dairy products, etc.
- Outdoors: E.g., pollens, insect bites or stings, insects, dust, etc.
- Indoors: E.g., animal hair or fur, dust mites, fan, bed bugs, mould, etc.
How to know if a child is allergic to a certain food or environmental factors?
It is absolutely impossible for parents to know or control everything that their child is exposed to or eats. Therefore, parents should instead focus on monitoring their child for symptoms. Common allergy symptoms in children are:
- Sneezing, coughing, a runny nose
- Skin rashes or hives
- Atopic dermatitis
- Stomach upset, in case of food allergies
Hay fever or different allergies can affect a child’s breathing. If you discover a noisy wheeze when your child breathes or if you see active breathing or shortness of breath, have your child examined by their paediatrician.
A dry, hacking cough with clear mucus is also a hint of respiratory allergies. Observe your kid at play. If they seem to exhaust quickly or more soon than other kids, this may be a sign of allergies.
Some allergies like skin rashes and hives are relatively easy to identify, whereas others are difficult since they can be similar to other conditions like the flu. Therefore, if your child has flu or “cold” for longer than a week or two or if she/he is prone to develop flu (flu-like symptoms) recurrently at the same time of every year, this can be an allergy. Talk to your doctor (allergist: an allergy specialist). He can diagnose an allergy and prescribe the required medicines.
Causes of Allergies in Children
It’s not clear why a few children have a specific allergy, and others don’t. There may be a family history playing a role here. So if you have a particular allergy, your child may also have that allergy or be more inclined to acquire another allergy.
The following eight foods contribute to 90% of food allergies:
- tree nuts, such as cashews, almonds and walnuts
- fish, such as cod, bass and flounder
- shellfish, such as crab, shrimp and lobster
Also, some children can’t bear citrus fruits. The reciprocity between allergy and allergen isn’t always apparent, so you may need to do some fact-finding to get the link. Bits of peanut can sneak in cereals, and soy can lurk in flavourings or additives found in frozen or processed foods.
Though rare in children, allergies to pets, dust, pollen, mould, insect stings, and other elements in the environment may trigger allergic symptoms that impact the head and chest, such as:
- red and itchy eyes
- coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness
- runny nose
Your child may also get a rash, hives or itchy bumps if their skin is bared to an allergen or something to which they are susceptible.
Soaps, shampoos, detergents, and related products are typical triggers for a reaction called contact dermatitis.
Seasonal allergies may appear at several times throughout the year, but they may be most prominent in the spring, which is customarily caused by plant-based allergens (when pollen counts can be high). The signs of seasonal allergies are related to environmental allergy symptoms, and may involve:
- itchy or watery eyes
- runny nose
Diagnosis of Allergies in Children
A skin test is a diagnostic test performed by the allergists on your child to find the cause of an allergy. It works in one of two ways:
- The purified liquid form of the allergen is dropped onto the skin of the patient, and the area is irritated (scratched) with a pricking device.
- The suspected allergen is taken, and a small amount is injected just under the skin.
If a mosquito-like bite (lump) develops at/around the site, the test is positive.
For children with skin conditions, those who are on medication (for other health condition), or kids with extremely sensitive skin (to a particular allergen) a blood test is preferred rather than any other test.
Elimination diet test
For considered food allergies, you may be directed to eliminate one potential allergen out of your kid’s diet for a week to understand if it makes a difference. This can be challenging, because some allergens, such as milk, can be found in a lot of other products.
Treatment for Allergies in Children
The primary treatment for a child allergy is to exclude exposure to the allergen. For example, if cat fur is the accused, then you’ll have to keep your child away from the neighbour’s kitty. If milk is the barrier, you’ll require to regulate your kid’s diet accordingly or your diet if you are breastfeeding. If you’re nursing, some allergens in your meal might be transferred to your baby through breast milk. However, the benefits to your child’s immune system that arise from nursing (at least through the first six months) generally outweigh any indirect susceptibility to potential allergens.
Medications containing antihistamines are amongst the most popular drugs used to counteract allergies. Antihistamines help reduce allergic reactions. However, most antihistamines aren’t prescribed for children below the age of 2.
Talk to your doctor before taking any medication for a child’s allergic reaction, and make sure to read the caution labels on any medication.
Hydrocortisone cream (Cortizone) may help manage reactions on your child’s skin. But again, verify with your paediatrician before using a new medication on your child, even ones that are easily accessible over the counter.
If anaphylaxis is a venture due to a critical food or insect allergy, then your doctor should guide you for emergency epinephrine (EpiPen), which can be conducted quickly with an injection into the skin. The medication can control the allergic signs until your baby initiates emergency medical care.
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