Allergies in children are more common than people think, but what do you do if you suspect your child is allergic to something?
AD: This is a collaborative post with Klarify.
In the UK about one in four adults, one in six teenagers and one in 10 children are affected by allergy. That’s way more than I would have thought! Some allergies go away as a child gets older, although some may last their whole life.
Likewise adults can develop allergies to things that they were not previously affected by.
But almost half of those people who suffer from an allergy haven’t had a formal diagnosis from a doctor and even fewer know what they’re actually allergic to.
What are allergies?
An allergic reaction is when your body’s immune system mistakenly identifies a harmless substance as a threat and takes excessive defensive action. These substances are known as allergens.
There are lots of different types of allergies, and the symptoms people have from them can differ from person to person. They can affect your sleep, and some can even be life-threatening.
Common allergies people suffer from
Some common allergens people have a reaction to include:
- Grass and tree pollen known as hayfever
- Dust mites
- Animal dander, tiny flakes of skin or hair
- Food, particularly nuts, fruit, shellfish, eggs and cows’ milk
- Insect bites and stings
- Medicines including ibuprofen, aspirin and certain antibiotics
- Household chemicals including some found in detergents and hair dyes
Symptoms an allergy can cause
Different people have different symptoms but commonly exposure to an allergen can cause:
- A runny or blocked nose,
- Red, itchy, watery eyes
- Wheezing and coughing
- A red, itchy rash
- Worsening of asthma or eczema symptoms
Although most allergic reactions are mild, a severe reaction called anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock can occur. Most of us would have heard about this happening to someone with an extreme allergy to nuts. This is a medical emergency and needs treatment urgently.
Other symptoms may include headaches, tiredness in the morning, dry or sore throat, shortness of breath, bloating, diarrhoea, and nausea – particularly with food allergies.
Common allergies in children
One of the most common allergies in children is hayfever. Although most people who suffer from hay fever get it as adults, it can start in childhood. It is rare in babies under 15 months, but from 18 months, children can develop allergic rhinitis. Hay fever is a type of allergic rhinitis which is an inflammation of the tissue lining the nose.
It’s slightly more common in boys than girls, and 1 in 10 school-aged children get hayfever.
It is basically a respiratory allergy against pollen, the fine powdery dust from grasses, trees and weeds. It is common when pollen is in the air from early spring, and through the summer. We all know a hayfever sufferer, don’t we?! Luckily I don’t suffer, but my Other Half does. And thankfully none of my boys are showing any signs of it. Hopefully it’ll stay that way.
Although allergies do apparently run in the family. There is usually a 12% chance of a child developing an allergy, but this increases to 50% if one parent has one, and 60-80% if both parents are allergic.
Things to look out for if you suspect your child might have hayfever include a blocked or runny nose, repeatedly sneezing, red, watery, itchy and swollen eyes, and poor sleep.
Things you can do to help a child with hayfever
It might seem like an impossible task, but try to reduce the amount of pollen your child is exposed to.
You can do this by using a pollen forecast to plan outings, putting on a hat and sunglasses, and keeping windows and doors closed to keep pollen out of your house. You can also wash your child’s hair often to remove pollen, and take day clothes off outside their room so pollen doesn’t get into their beds. Another tip would be to use a tumble dryer instead of drying laundry outside where it can be covered in pollen. Spend time at places where pollen counts are lower such as near the sea or in the mountains. Not always possible though!
Dust mite allergies
Children are often also allergic to dust mites which produces similar symptoms to hayfever as well as potential skin reactions.
Dust mites can be found all over the home, but particularly on furniture, carpets, beddings and soft toys. Allergy testing is often needed alongside a look into medical history to diagnose a house dust allergy.
Things you can do to help a child with dust mite allergies
- Washing bedding at 60 degrees to kill dust mites will help
- Use dust-proof covers
- Put stuffed toys in the freezer for 24 hours to kill mites
- Replace carpets with wooden floors
- Keep humidity levels down with a dehumidifier
- Use an air purifier
Children can suffer from food allergies
Foods that children can be allergic to include cows’ milk, eggs, gluten, nuts and peanuts, seeds, soya, shellfish or fish.
If your baby is allergic to one or more of these products it can be hard to compose a diet, as these products are contained in a lot of recipes. Eggs for example can appear in sweets, different kinds of cooked meat or pasta, or even in vegetable oil. If you do not distinguish egg allergy in babies in the first place, you will find yourself wondering what causes an allergic reaction in your baby from many types of food. So before introducing these kinds of food to your baby, try to do it without mixing to find out which one is an allergen.
Parents are advised that when they start introducing solid foods to their baby at around six months, they give them these types of food one at a time in very small amounts. This is so that if your child is allergic to them, it can be spotted.
Symptoms of a food allergy
If your child has a food allergy, their symptoms may consist of one or more of these:
- Diarrhoea or vomiting
- A cough
- Wheezing and shortness of breath
- Itchy throat and tongue
- Itchy skin or rash
- Swollen lips and throat
- Runny or blocked nose
- Sore, red and itchy eyes
It is advised to get medical advice if you think your child is allergic to a certain food.
How to diagnose an allergy
So many symptoms of allergies are the same, and this makes it difficult to identify what you or your child may be allergic to. Allergy testing may help to find out what triggers a reaction and can also rule out others. This can then help you better manage your child’s allergy. Only a doctor can give a formal diagnosis to an allergy but testing can show an indication of triggers.
It’s now possible to do an at-home test such as Klarify which can help you start to overcome the allergy and make it easier to deal with.
It tests 294 allergens and once you have your results, you’ll not only have a better idea of what you could be allergic to, you can then take measures to avoid those substances and get the most suitable treatment.
But talking to your doctor about any allergy test results is essential to get a diagnosis and access to the best treatment options. Good luck!
Do you or your children have an allergy?
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