Allergies & Children
We are all exposed to dust, pollen, and pollutants every day when we breathe. Many children and adults will be unaffected from this exposure. However, others will suffer many symptoms as a result of this exposure. It has been estimated that about 50 million Americans have some type of allergy. Allergies are caused by the body’s reaction to substances called “allergens,” which trigger the immune system to react to harmless substances as though they were attacking the body. Future exposure to the same allergen will cause the same reaction in someone with an allergy.
Clues that your child may have an allergy:
- Repeated or chronic cold-like symptoms that last longer than a week or two, or symptoms that tend to occur around the same time each year. This symptoms can include: nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, throat clearing, and itchy/watery eyes.
- Symptoms that occur repeatedly after ingesting a particular food such as: hives, itchy throat, swelling, difficulty breathing, or abdominal pain.
- Recurrent red, itchy, dry, or scaly rashes in the creases of elbows or knees, wrists, back, or ankles.
Common airborne allergens
Dust: contains small microscopic dust mites and often a mixture of other allergens such as pollen, mold, and animal dander. Dust mites are present year round and found in bedding, carpet, and upholstery.
Pollen: released by trees, grasses, and weeds. This allergen is seasonal so it is important to check the pollen count in one’s area as a frame of reference as to when symptoms may occur.
Fungi: molds found both inside and outside in warm, moist environments.
Pets: pet fur/feathers and animal dander are very common allergens.
Common food allergens
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology “approximately 2 million or 8% of children in the United States are affected by food allergies, and that eight foods account for most of those food allergy reactions in kids: eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts, and wheat.” This allergens will be further discussed below.
Cow’s milk (aka milk protein allergy): usually presents in the child’s first year of life. The most common symptoms include: rash, abdominal pain, vomiting or diarrhea. About 80% of children will outgrow this allergy.
Eggs: usually presents when a child is very young and with most children outgrowing the allergy by age 5 or 6. This allergen can often pose a challenge for parents as it is often a hidden ingredient on package foods.
Seafood and shellfish: usually develop later in life and our an allergen that is not typically outgrown.
Peanuts and tree nuts: Peanuts are one of the most severe allergies and can be life threatening. 50 % of people allergic to peanuts are allergic to tree nuts as well. This allergy is typically not outgrown.
Soy: This allergy is more common in babies than older children. Approximately 30-40% of babies with a soy allergy also have a milk protein allergy.
Wheat: present in many of the foods we eat but should not be confused with Celiac disease (a disease is caused by a sensitivity to gluten, which is found in wheat, oat, rye, and barley).
Treating Allergy Symptoms
If symptoms are severe an allergy blood test ordered by your health care provider or skin scratch ordered by an allergists will be conducted to determine what allergens affect your child. Once the allergen(s) is determined the first step is often avoidance. Your health care provider will instruct you on ways to lessen your child’s allergen exposure. Often medications are necessary to help alleviate allergy symptoms. The medications used are listed below.
Antihistamines-are used to help with runny nose and sneezing, itchy eyes and hives.
Nasal corticosteroids-are very effective in allergy symptom control. Safe to use on children for long periods of time and work best if used daily.
Allergy immunotherapy-also known as allergy shots, may be prescribed by an allergist if your child’s allergies are severe.
Allergies can be very troublesome. However, with the help of your child’s health care provider symptoms can lessen with the proper treatment plan. If you suspect your child has an allergy seek guidance from your child’s doctor to make sure they are adequately being treated.
Please feel free to ask any questions or provide feedback as it is always greatly appreciated.