Allergies In Children
Allergy is a condition characterised by a level of sensitivity greater than normal to a specific substance or group of substances. These substances, called allergens, trigger a response in susceptible children.
When to suspect an Allergy
Here are some common clues that could lead you to suspect your child may have an allergy-
- Patches of bumps or itchy, red skin that oozes clear fluid, and forms a crust.
- Development of hives, intensely itchy skin eruptions that usually last for a few hours and move from one part of the body to another.
- Repeated or chronic cold like symptoms - that last more than a week or two, or develop at about the same time every year. These could include a runny nose, nasal stuffiness, sneezing and throat clearing.
- Nose rubbing, sniffing, sneezing and itchy, runny eyes.
- Itching or tingling sensations in the mouth and throat. Itchiness is not usually a complaint with a cold, but it is the hallmark of an allergy problem.
- Coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, and other respiratory symptoms.
- Unexplained bouts of diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, and other intestinal symptoms.
Rhinitis is a swelling of the mucous membrane in the nose due to irritation or congestion resulting in a runny nose, itching, and sneezing. Irritants in the environment like cigarette smoke, chemicals, temperature changes, stress, exercise, or other factors may provoke rhinitis in susceptible children, such as those who have allergies.
Many children are allergic to pollens and moulds, both of which are found everywhere outdoors and cannot be completely avoided. Exposure to plant allergens can be minimized by keeping the child indoors on days with high pollen. It is helpful to use air conditioners to reduce exposure to pollen in both home and the car. Dust mites congregate where food for them is plentiful. They are especially numerous in upholstered furniture and bedding. Choose blankets and pillows made of synthetic materials. Padded furnishings such as mattresses, box springs, pillows and cushions should be encased in allergen-proof, zip-up covers. Wash linens weekly, and other bedding such as blankets, every 2 to 3 weeks in hot water. Pillows should be replaced every 2 to 3 years.
Common allergens at home
- Dust (contains dust mites and finely ground particles from other allergens such as pollen and mould).
- Pollen (trees, grasses, weeds)
- Fungi (including moulds)
- Furry animals (cats, dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits, and other pets)
- Clothing and toys made, trimmed, or stuffed with animal hair
- Latex (household articles such as utensils, toys, balloons, elastic in socks, underwear, and other clothing, airborne particles)
- Seed dusts (beanbag toys and cushions)
- Bacterial enzymes (used to manufacture enzyme bleaches and cleaning products)
- Foods such as cow's milk, eggs, peanuts, nuts, soy, wheat and gluten, and corn.
- Antihistamines - dampen the allergic reaction.
- Decongestants - cover the range of symptoms.
- Corticosteroids - highly effective for allergy treatment and are widely used to stop symptoms.
- Allergy Immunotherapy - immunotherapy, or allergy shots, may be recommended to reduce the child's sensitivity to airborne allergens. Not every allergy problem can or needs to be treated with allergy shots, but treatment of respiratory allergies to pollen, dust mites, and outdoor moulds is often successful.
Coughs and colds are infectious diseases that are very common in children. However, there are some children who have frequent or persistent cough. When a child suffers from repeated episodes of cough and wheezing (a high pitched sound heard each time the child exhales out air) he is said to be suffering from asthma. The exact reason for asthma being so common is not known. However, a number of factors may contribute to its rising incidence. These include changing lifestyles, decreasing early childhood infections, which direct the infant's immune system towards allergy rather than protection against infection and increasing pollution. Some common triggers of asthma are:
1. Allergies -Moulds -Pollen -Dust mites -Cockroaches -Animals (especially cats and dogs)
2. Tobacco smoke
3. Infections -Viral respiratory infections, including colds -Sinus infections
4. Outdoor air pollution
5. Indoor air pollution -Aerosol sprays -Cooking fumes -Odours -Smoke (wood fires, wood-burning stoves)
Eczema is a red, extremely itchy rash, most common on creases of elbows, wrists, and knees. It may occasionally occur on neck, ankles, and feet. The rash becomes raw and weepy on scratching. The itching has a vicious cycle wherein scratching causes more irritation leading to more itching and scratching.
- Food allergies also play a role in about 25 percent of cases of eczema in young children.
- Antihistamine medication may be prescribed to relieve the itching, and help break the itch-scratch cycle.
- Long-sleeved sleepwear may also help prevent night time scratching. Scratchy, rough and woolly clothes make eczema worse and should be avoided. Cotton clothes are good and should be worn as much as possible.
- As long as steroid creams are used sparingly, at the lowest strength that does the job, steroid creams are very safe and effective.
- A cortisone medication may be prescribed to reduce inflammation.
- Soaps containing perfumes and deodorants may be too harsh for children's sensitive skin.
- Use products that are free of dyes and perfumes and double-rinse clothes, towels and bedding.
- Warm (never hot) showers may be preferable to baths. Gently pat the child dry after the shower or bath to avoid irritating the skin with rubbing.
- Wash new clothes thoroughly before the child wears them.
- Avoid triggers like excessive heat, sweating, excessive cold, dry air, chlorine, harsh chemicals, and soaps.