Discovering that your child has an allergy is a frightening experience for any parent. An unknown allergy can turn a fun family gathering into a trip to the emergency room or worse. Unfortunately, childhood allergies are very common. Millions of children under the age of 18 struggle with various allergies every year, which is why it’s important to know what to do when one arises suddenly.
What Are Allergies?
Allergies are our immune system’s response to one foreign substance or another. Our immune systems naturally produce antibodies when it comes in contact with unfamiliar material. Most of the time, there’s no response. Trying that new food, or petting your friend’s new kitten won’t invoke a reaction. But in some cases, your immune system will produce antibodies for a substance that might not otherwise be harmful to the average person. Allergic reactions can range from mild to very severe, so it’s important to monitor your children when they’re trying new foods or interacting with unfamiliar environments.
What Causes Childhood Allergies?
To put it simply, allergies occur when our bodies produce high levels of Immunoglobulin E (IgE) when we come in contact with otherwise benign environmental variables. Food, pets, medicines, materials, and more can all cause an allergic reaction. Allergies can arise at any age, at any time. Additionally, allergies can improve or worsen over the course of a person’s life.
How Do I Know If My Child Is Having An Allergic Reaction?
Allergic reactions can be subtle for some children and more severe for others. Your child might be having a mild allergic reaction if they’re experiencing hives, itchiness or the skin or eyes, reddening of the skin, mild swelling, stuffy or runny nose, or sneezing.
If your child is having a severe allergic reaction common symptoms include extreme swelling of the mouth and/or tongue, trouble swallowing or breathing, difficulty speaking, painful belly, gastrointestinal distress (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea), fatigue, dizziness, or fainting.
What Should I Do If My Child Is Having An Allergic Reaction?
If you believe your child is having a mild allergic reaction, call your pediatrician to get advice or schedule an appointment. For mild allergic reactions, oral antihistamines like Benadryl may be enough to alleviate symptoms.
However, if your child is having a severe allergic reaction, call 911, or get them to your closest hospital as quickly as possible. If you’re aware of your child’s allergy, you may have an EpiPen or some form of injectable epinephrine. Should that be the case, administer the dose according to directions and get your child to a hospital as soon as possible.
Common Childhood Allergies
Unfortunately, allergies come in all shapes and sizes, so giving an exhaustive list of common childhood allergies might not be helpful. However, we’ve outlined some of the most common allergies children struggle with so you can be on the lookout for potential hazards.
Environmental allergens are those found in the environment around you that you may not even see.
When we talk about a dust allergy, what we’re actually referring to is a dust mite allergy. Dust mites are tiny little bugs that commonly live in regular house dust. The most common symptoms of a dust mite allergy include a sinus reaction of some sort, as well as itchiness and potential swelling. A great way to help your children avoid their dust mite allergy is to dust and vacuum regularly and encourage good handwashing techniques.
Mold allergies occur after exposure to mold, which typically grows in dark, damp places. Mold in the household is often caused by untreated leaks from pipes or from external factors like rain. Mold allergies most commonly cause difficulty breathing, wheezing, or asthma. Mold allergies are treated with antihistamines and nasal sprays.
Possibly one of the most common allergies, pollen causes what is often referred to as “seasonal” allergies. Prevalent in all seasons with the exception of winter, trees, weeds, and grasses release pollen that may cause “hay fever.” Sneezing, itchy, watering eyes, coughing, or even rash or hives are common pollen allergies. There are many OTC medications that treat pollen allergies, but it’s always best to consult your pediatrician before giving your child any new medications.
Pet Dander Allergy
Getting a family pet may be on your family’s to-do list, but it’s important to know whether or not your child is allergic to your pet of choice before committing to that responsibility. Pet dander allergy symptoms include reactions like sneezing, runny nose, hives/skin rash, or even asthma. Pet dander can come from any pet, even animals that breeders claim are “hypoallergenic.”
Food allergies are very common. Some allergies may only involve the consumption of said food, but some reactions are more severe and may only require contact with the food to cause a serious allergic reaction.
Peanut and Tree Nut Allergy
Peanut and tree nut allergies are the most common type of food allergy, affecting millions of children every year. Peanuts and tree nuts can cause skin reactions, swelling of the mouth and throat, or even anaphylaxis, a serious, acute allergic reaction that can occur within seconds or minutes of exposure.
Shellfish is one of the more volatile food reactions that parents face. A reaction to shellfish (shrimp, crab, lobster, and sometimes mollusks like clams or oysters), usually appears within a few minutes to an hour of ingestion. Typical reactions include swelling of the lips, face, tongue, and throat, or other parts of the body that may have come in contact with the allergen.
As one of the most common breakfast foods, it’s hard to believe that anyone could be allergic to eggs, but many children are. Like other food allergies, a reaction to eggs can be mild to severe, and cause swelling, as well as digestive problems.
It’s important to note that an allergy to milk isn’t the same as lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance refers to the body’s inability to digest lactose, the sugar found in dairy products. An actual allergy to milk acts the same as most other food allergies, with swelling digestive problems, and other potentially serious side effects.
The humble banana is another one of those friendly foods that can be deceptively deadly if your child has an allergy to them. Bananas can cause a rash, wheezing, coughing, and swelling of the mouth and throat.
The list of allergies doesn’t stop with just food and environmental allergies. Some allergies involve reactions to materials, medicine, or other substances.
Latex allergies can be tricky to discover on your own unless you know your child has had direct contact with latex. Latex is in a lot of products from rubber gloves to clothing. However, these days manufacturers are opting for latex-free versions of their products to better protect the general public. A latex allergy, as with any allergy can be mild, moderate, or severe, and may be able to be controlled with medicine or treatment.
There is an incredible number of medications that treat an expansive list of ailments. Unfortunately, not every medicine works the same for every patient, especially children. Common medication allergic reactions include hives, rash, swelling, or something more serious. If you believe your child is experiencing an allergic reaction caused by a medication, cease use, and either call your pediatrician or 911 in cases of emergency.
Another common allergy may involve everyday chemicals that you keep in your home. Detergents, shampoos, deodorants, cleaners, and more may have serious consequences for your little one if they’re allergic. A chemical allergy can have the typical symptoms of an allergic reaction, but it may also cause additional issues such as body aches, fevers, chills, and more. It’s important to note that chemicals that may not bother adults have the potential to irritate your child’s skin, which is why many companies have “baby-safe” versions of their products.
We’ve put preservatives in this grouping because they can exist in many different forms. From medications to food, preservatives can cause allergic reactions in people of all ages. They may cause headaches, stomach upset, migraines, nausea, or something more severe. A common preservative allergy is nitrites or nitrates used in food-based products.
If you’re concerned that your child might have an allergy, an allergist can help you find out more. An allergy test involves exposing your child to many different allergens at once in very small quantities. There are several different ways to test for allergies, including skin pricking, intradermal testing, blood tests, or a patch test. Talk to your pediatrician to learn more about allergy tests.
Can Childhood Allergies Be Cured?
At this time there’s no real cure for most childhood allergies. However, as medicine gets better and better, treatments have become available that significantly reduce your child’s immune response to certain allergies, turning them from deadly to manageable.
Talk To Your Pediatrician About Allergies
Pediatrics East has been helping parents navigate their children’s allergies for many years. At Peds East, our number one priority is the health and safety of your little one. If you have more questions about childhood allergies, call and make an appointment today to discuss options with one of our expert pediatricians.
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