Allergies are glitches of the immune system which arise due to its reaction to a “potentially harmful” situation. The immune system is responsible for keeping you healthy and fights against harmful viruses and bacteria. In some instances, the immune system sees minor issues such as pollen or dust as a significant threat and will immediately defend the body against such “threats.”
According to data, about 40% of children in the U.S. suffer from allergies, making it necessary to pay attention to the signs to prevent fatalities. Here are some things to look out for.
What happens during an allergy?
Allergens are mostly harmless, but the immune system sees them as threats and defends the body by using antibodies known as immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies quickly suppress the allergens when attached to special cells known as mast cells. This results in an allergic reaction as the mast cells discharge histamine and a host of other chemicals. The release of the substances mentioned above irritates the nasal tissues. This in turn leads to visible nasal symptoms of an allergy. If something of the sort happens in the lungs, it may reflect asthma signs such as wheezing or coughing. If the reaction affects the whole body, it is deemed a severe allergic reaction.
The rise in prevalence
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a projected number of 50 million Americans live with allergies. Allergies are often noticed during infancy and childhood. If not treated quickly, it will invariably affect your child’s daily functions and render them unable to play, function in school, or sleep well.
Stats from the CDC also indicates that skin and food allergies were the most prevalent in children and increased exponentially between 1997 and 2011. However, in the same period, the rate of respiratory allergies, which was the most common type of allergy found in children, remained steady. CDC supported data also showed that younger children tend to have more skin allergies and older children had more respiratory allergies.
Importance of early detection
The early detection and treatment of allergies in children will significantly improve their life by reducing the number of school days they will miss. It will also prevent you from spending your extra days off work to take care of your child. If your child has a condition, quickly contact an allergist to seek remedies. Allergies can just develop out of the blue, but families with a history of allergies are more prone. So, children from such families are more susceptible and measures should be put in place as early as possible. Such children should be closely monitored and not be exposed to potential allergy triggers.
Signs of allergy
The body may react to an allergy in several places. This includes; sinuses, throat, lungs, the lining of the stomach, eyes, skin, and nose. These places are the most common because they are known to be entry points. The immune systems tend to work overtime at entry points to prevent any infection that may be harmful to the body.
Some allergic reactions manifest as itchy welts, rashes, red and itchy dry skin, or red, itchy, and watery eyes. Others may mirror asthmatic symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and difficulty in breathing. In severe cases that may be life-threatening, such as anaphylaxis, you may encounter fainting, low blood pressure, shortness of breath, and vomiting. It is always beneficial to continuously learn more asthma & allergic triggers and their associated symptoms that can affect your child.
Allergy triggers refer to things that can potentially set off an allergic reaction, and they can be broadly differentiated into five main areas. Outdoor triggers occur due to being outside and coming into contact with things like pollen from trees and plants, insect bites, or stings and dust. Indoor triggers can be found inside the home and could be dust mites, mold, indoor plants, and even bedding. Irritants are triggers initiated by things like strong perfumes, smoke from cigarettes, or fumes from car exhausts that cause you discomfort.
Food triggers are initiated by foods such as eggs, milk, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, sea food such as fish or lobster, soy, and wheat. Some children also cannot take in particular citrus fruits. Lastly, pets can also be allergy triggers. Those that shed are mostly the culprits in this regard, but most often, it’s the dander, urine, saliva, or fur that may be the primary triggers of allergies. It is not always easy to notice the link between an allergen and an allergy, and it will take some time even before you notice the trigger. So, pay attention to the least details to quickly establish the link between the allergen and allergy.
Watching for symptoms of allergies
Allergies manifest in several ways, and are most likely to show on the skin, in the respiratory system, and the stomach. Here’s what to look out for when watching for symptoms of an allergy:
As the most expansive and visible part of the body, the skin is the perfect place to notice an allergic reaction. If you notice any difference in your child’s skin, that could be a potential allergic reaction. The skin may look dry and reddish with scaly patches that may itch. This is a clear indication of an allergen present, and you need to quickly take the necessary steps to find out what it is and seek treatment.
Breathing patterns are usually steady, and it is easy to notice if that pattern changes. Allergies that affect the respiratory system can be detected through the change in your child’s breathing. Get your child checked by a doctor once you realize that their breathing pattern has changed. They may have shortness of breath or have wheezy and dry breath, or even be breathing rapidly.
Allergies may set off stomach issues in children. Be mindful of your child and take notice when they complain of stomach cramps, throwing up, or have an episode of diarrhea. If any of these happen, get them checked and find out if it is allergy-related. Allergies may also manifest as headaches or frequent fatigue and may affect your child’s behavior, making them feel restless.
Diagnosing allergies in children
To properly determine and diagnose an allergy, a healthcare provider will need to have a complete and comprehensive health history of your child, as this will provide essential insight. Three kinds of tests may be done to finalize and determine what type of allergy your child has:
This is the most commonly practiced kind of allergy test. The results are also quite visible and straightforward. Skin tests are used to measure IgE antibodies’ presence in allergens by introducing a bit of diluted allergen onto an exposed part of the skin that has been recently pricked or scratched. If your child reacts to the allergen, the skin in contact with the allergen will rise like a bump in about 15 minutes. With skin tests, several allergens can be tested simultaneously to find out which one will form a reaction. In some cases, the allergist may perform an intradermal test in which a bit of allergen is placed just under the skin via injection.
In this testing method, IgE antibodies are measured to ascertain the presence of allergens in the blood. The most common blood test method is the radioallergosorbent test known as RAST. Blood tests are recommended when skin tests cannot be done. In situations where there is a delicate skin condition, it is advisable to do a blood test to determine if allergens are present. Positive blood tests for allergens does not always mean that you indeed have a particular allergy. What the positive blood test indicates is that it has to be interpreted by a doctor that knows the health history of the patient and is adept with the testing procedure.
In this test, a small quantity of allergen is introduced directly to the child via mouth or nose. A certified allergist strictly oversees this procedure. This test is to determine the severity of the allergy. Skin and blood tests only indicate that there is indeed an allergic reaction. As with the blood test, a challenge test is to be interpreted by a doctor who knows your child’s medical history.
Seek medical attention
The first step to treating an allergy is getting help. Your pediatrician should be your first point of call in such situations. They will help you understand what allergens trigger the reactions and aid you in formulating a plan that will reduce the incidence of allergic reactions.
They will also provide you with the requisite knowledge of what to do if such a situation reoccurs and prescribe you medication to lessen the allergic reaction’s impact. In turn, you should be able to make your child understand the problem and the possible danger they may put themselves in if they do not follow the plan you formulated with the pediatrician to avoid coming into contact with allergens.
The treatment of allergies varies and depends greatly on the symptoms shown, the severity of the allergy, age of the child, and the child’s overall health. Some allergic reactions may reflect other health conditions; it is imperative to consult your doctor to know exactly what it is.
The most effective ways to treat allergies are through avoidance of allergens, immunotherapy which involves going for allergy shots regularly and getting medication. The symptoms of allergies sometimes look like other conditions or health problems. So, always see your child’s healthcare provider for a diagnosis.