Children with allergies and how to take care of them
Discover how you can identify and take care of children with allergies to promote the quality of their lives. An allergy is a hyper reaction of the immune system to a harmless substance (allergen). The immune system treats the allergen as an invader and in the process of protecting the body, it overreacts, causing symptoms that can range from being mild to severe or life-threatening.
A child may be having allergies if he or she sneezes or coughs a lot, gets cramps, nausea or stomach ache when after eating certain foods or develops a frequent rash or hives.
It is important to identify children with allergies early enough so as to improve their quality of life and reduce the number of school days missed due to sickness.
Children with allergies can be identified when they exhibit the following symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing or asthma
- Stomach upset
- Hive or skin rashes (eczema or atopic dermatitis)
- Sneezing, a runny nose, coughing or itchy eyes
The most common triggers of allergy in children include:
- Foods such as eggs, peanuts, milk and milk products
- Irritants such as perfume, cigarette smoke, and car exhaust
- Indoor factors such as animal hair or fur, molds, dust and dust mites
- Outdoor factors such as insect stings or bites such cockroaches, plant pollen and tree pollen
Make an appointment with a pediatric allergist whenever you suspect your child has an allergy. Before visiting the pediatric allergist, ensure that you’re keeping track of the various symptoms your child is experiencing as well as what you think are their causes.
Baby Food Allergies
Some sensitive babies can experience allergic reactions to foods their mothers eat especially if a mother is breastfeeding. The most common baby food allergies are milk and peanuts. The cow’s milk has milk protein that infants become allergic to. The other frequently observed baby food allergy triggers include eggs, fish, soy, shellfish (lobster, crab, shrimp, and crayfish), wheat and tree nuts (cashews, walnuts, and pecans). Children with allergies experience severe reaction typically to peanuts, fish, and shellfish and tree nuts. Insect stings, antibiotic medicines and some chemicals such as detergents can also cause allergic reactions to some children.
Parents of children with baby food allergies should be wary of the possibility of anaphylaxis- a potentially severe reaction that impairs breathing, causes a sudden drop in blood pressure and can send the child’s body into shock. It is for this reason that most pediatric allergists prescribe epinephrine (adrenaline) for children with baby food allergies. Epinephrine is administered using an auto-injector when symptoms begin to develop.
Allergic rhinitis (hay fever)
Allergic rhinitis is the most frequent type of allergy ailment that affect children. It usually develops from age 10 and reaches its peak when the child is in teens or early twenties. Its symptoms vary from sneezing, run and itchy nose to postnasal drip nasal blockage. Sometimes the child develops itchy, watery, red eyes as well as chronic ear problems. Allergic rhinitis is commonly known as hay fever but the truth is that it is not triggered by hay neither does it cause fever.
Chronic nasal congestion (stuffy nose) is commonly caused by allergies. At some point, the congestion is such that the child has to breathe through his or her mouth, especially while sleeping. This may make the child restless at night with not enough sleep and be tired the next day. The congestion and mouth-breathing should not be left untreated as they can hinder the growth of teeth and the bones of the baby’s face. If a child develops chronic nasal congestion, take him or her to a pediatric allergist who will then recommend early treatment of the allergies.
Children allergies cause inflation in the ear which may lead to fluid accumulation that can hamper hearing and enhance ear infections. If a child’s hearing is impaired for any reason while learning to talk, he or she may develop poor speech. Other causes of allergies to ears of children include earaches, ear itching, popping and fullness (stopped-up ears). Any child who experiences these symptoms should see a pediatric allergist for a possible testing and treatment.
Some allergies are relatively easy to identify by their patterns of symptoms following an exposure to an allergen. Other allergies can be similar to other conditions making it hard to identify.
Pediatric allergists usually conduct skin tests to determine the cause of an allergy. One way they do this is by putting a drop of a purified liquid form of the allergen onto the child’s skin and the area is pricked for some time. Another procedure is to inject a small amount of allergen just under the skin making it look like an insect sting. If a lump surrounded by a reddish area appears in the injection place after 15 minutes, then the test is positive. An alternative for children with severe allergic reactions, or are under medications, is to take their blood samples for testing.
Allergies and children activities
For children going to school, ensure you inform the school about your child’s allergy condition. If your child has severe allergy or asthma, give to the school administration an action plan for your child as well the child’s access to medication such as epinephrine in cases of emergency.
Pets at home or school can cause problems for children with allergies. If at school your child experiences allergy or asthma symptoms such as sneezing, a rash, runny nose, and difficulty in breathing, it could be due to school pets.
Physical education and sports in vital for child’s development. However, if the child has asthma or allergic diseases, they should participate in these activities only under the doctor’s advice. During physical exercise, asthma symptoms that occur may indicate poor control hence ensures that your child regularly takes asthma controller medications. In practice, the inhaler medication is prescribed before physical exercise to control asthma symptoms.
Dust irritation can affect allergic children, especially when playing on the outside. At school, children with allergies should sit far away from the chalkboard to avoid irritation from chalk dust.
Children with allergies require extra care and planning so that they can have a full and fun childhood. Ensure that your child is familiar with the allergy triggers so that they are aware and know to avoid them. Teach your child who to seek advice from whenever they become unwell in case you are not around. The medication for children with allergies should be kept in a place known by everyone for easy access. If you are away, give clear instructions to anyone caring for your children such as nurses and schools.