* What should you know about allergies in young children? *
Allergy is a response of an immune system to substances incoming into a human organism from the external environment. The immune system recognizes some of the substances as dangerous invaders and initiates protective actions, which cause a histamine release as a result. Histamine provokes in turn different allergy symptoms that one could mistake for symptoms of other diseases.
Immune systems of children, even of infants, are already able to distinguish enemies from supporters, although sometimes an allergic reaction to an unknown trigger can be non-permanent – it disappears when an immune system starts to recognize the trigger as friendly. So it is extremely important to strengthen the immune system of your infant from the birth. Breastfeeding is a first step to protect a baby. It is known that the breast milk is rich not only in vitamins and minerals, but also in antibodies, which give a baby a good protection in the first months of her life.
It is important to know that it often takes time for an allergy to develop. Not always symptoms of allergy appear right away after a contact with an allergen. It can take days or even months for the organism to start reacting. But sometimes symptoms may appear very quickly – within seconds of being exposed to an allergen.
All allergy triggers are generally divided on three groups: food (dairy products, wheat, peanut, soy, citrus fruits, etc.), transmitted through the air (dust mites, pets skins, pollens, mildew spores, etc.) and environmental (chemicals) allergens. Although there are several common symptoms of allergy, allergens of each group can cause different reactions. Human organisms also can give different allergic reaction to the same allergen.
So, the main thing that one should keep in mind is that an allergy is a quite insidious disease. If you see allergy symptoms in your child, don’t try to cope with the illness on your own! Consult with your pediatrician and an allergy specialist about the diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
* What allergy symptoms are in children? *
There are some common signs of allergy in young children: rash and hives, itchy and watery eyes, itchy and rainy nose, sneezing, coughing, swelling, wheezing and difficulties in breathing. In a case of a food allergy the list can be expanded by diarrhea, vomiting, stomach aches.
Let’s have a look at the allergy symptoms in more detail.
– Rash and hives. Rash often breaks out in the skin folds at knees and elbows, it makes skin dry, flaky and irritated. Hives is a kind of itching rash that looks like mosquito bites; it can appear on the back, face, head, stomach, thighs and buttocks. Besides the prescribed medicine, herbal compresses can help to relieve a rash.
– Itchy, red and watery eyes (or allergic conjunctivitis). It can be accompanied by dark circles around eyes. Allergic conjunctivitis is mostly caused by allergens transmitted through the air, such as pollen or dust. Herbal cold eyes compresses can be helpful.
– Runny nose and sneezing. These are common signs of allergy, although they can often be symptoms of cold. Itchy nose, however, is a particular sign of allergy, because most of air allergens come through the nose, causing its itching.
– Coughing and difficulties in breathing. It most likely points to the allergy, if your child has a dry, hacking cough for a long time without a relief. Allergy coughing can be accompanied by wheezy breathing and whistling when your child exhales, and can cause an asthma.
– Swelling around the eyes and lips. It is also one of the common allergic reactions. Sometimes swelling can spread inside a throat, so it is important to check from time to time how your child breathes. Ice and herbal compresses can help to lessen swelling.
– Diarrhea, vomiting and stomach aches. These symptoms are quite usual for infants and little children, but if it occurs too often (2-4 times a day) for some days – it is a signal to consult with a pediatrist about a possible food allergy in your child.
– Among other allergy symptoms one could mention: headache, irritated throat, fatigue, mood changes.
* How can you distinguish food allergy from food intolerance? *
Symptoms of food allergy and food intolerance are exactly the same. It is practically impossible to diagnose a food allergy without blood testing. A true allergic reaction entails a producing of immune antibodies, in particular, immunoglobulin E (IgE). Thus, in a case of food allergy there is always certain identifiable quantity of IgE in the blood. If your child’s blood tests are positive, a doctor will diagnose a food allergy and develop a plan for appropriate treatment.
* How can you distinguish allergy from cold? *
Symptoms of allergy and cold are also very similar on the surface. But you can recognize an allergy in children easier if you see the following:
– Symptoms (sneezing, runny nose, etc.) continue longer than 7-10 days.
– Your child rubs her excessively watering eyes frequently and has dark circles under the eyes.
– There are not fever, chill and body ache.
– Nasal fluid is clear and watery, not slimy and colored as during a cold.
– Breathing is uncomfortable and difficult, with coughing and wheezing.
– Eczema (a red scaly rash) and contact dermatitis is not getting away for some weeks.
– You have problems with the child’s behavior – she is fussy, nervous, has a bad appetite and a sleep.
* Can be an allergy dangerous for your child? *
Usually an allergy is not very dangerous. Children can suffer from irritation, weakness, inappropriate breathing and lack of rest, but it is not life-threatening. With the exception of one thing – a very quick swelling of throat that can cause an anaphylactic shock and even death. An anaphylactic shock (or anaphylaxis) can be an after-effect of food allergy or bee stings.
That’s why it is extremely important to control your baby’s breathing during the allergy exacerbation. If you see that your child gasps for breath – call 911 urgently. It is also wise to get in advance an immunologist’s advice concerning a possible first aid treatment in a case of an anaphylaxis.
* Where can you find additional information about allergy in children? *
Natural therapies to help alleviate allergies
Kid’s Health: All About Allergy
Home Health UK: Allergy
Asthma and Allergy Foundations in America: Asthma in Infants