Allergies are some of the most common health problems. Millions of people worldwide are affected by asthma, allergic rhinitis, atopic dermatitis and other allergy-related conditions. Although allergies are more common in children, the onset or recurrence of allergies can take place at any age.
Most allergic reactions are easily controlled. But some can lead to an anaphylactic reaction, which is a serious allergic reaction that progresses rapidly and can be fatal. Symptoms may include a combination of rashes, shortness of breath, chest pain or tightness, weak pulse, dizziness, swelling of the eyes, lips or tongue, difficulty swallowing, abdominal cramps or vomiting. An anaphylactic reaction is an emergency, which needs immediate medical attention.
Listed below are some common allergies, their symptoms and triggers. Consult your doctor if your child displays any of these symptoms.
Children with asthma often have cough, tight chest or difficulty breathing. These signs are worse in the morning or at night and could also be due to exercise or physical activity.
Common triggers include viral infections, cigarette smoke, house dust mites, animal fur, weather changes and even stress.
Allergic rhinitis is usually due to inhaling house dust mites, mould and animal dander. The condition can be frustrating to a child as he or she will sneeze often and have an itchy and runny nose, which can get stuffy. The child may start to breathe through the mouth. Often the child also has watery and itchy eyes, which may become red and swollen.
In infants, eczema tends to occur on the cheeks, behind the ears and on the thighs. As the child grows, these dry, itchy and red patches are often found in the folds of the neck, arms and legs. Eczema can be worsened by food allergies or contact with allergens such as house dust mites and animal fur.
These can be mild or serious enough to cause an anaphylactic reaction. Common triggers include peanuts, eggs, wheat, soy and shellfish.
Hives are commonly caused by food allergies, medicines and viral infections. These raised, red and itchy skin patches look like mosquito bites and can be found on different parts of the body. They usually appear in crops and do not stay at the same spot for more than a few hours.
Unlike hives, the red itchy patches are confined to areas which have come into direct contact with the allergen, which may include chemicals found in perfumes, cosmetics, detergents or plant substances such as poison ivy. If severe, the rashes may even blister.
Prevention of allergies depends on the type of allergy you have. Once you know what triggers your allergic reaction, you should do your best to avoid those triggers. Common triggers include viral infections, cigarette smoke, house dust mites, animal fur, weather changes and even stress.
What causes allergies is not exactly known. Allergies tend to run in families so if either parent has an allergy, the child has a higher chance of getting allergies. However, some children have allergies even if no one in the family does. There is usually a history of contact with an allergen, which is a substance that can be eaten, inhaled, injected or come into contact with the skin. Common allergens include peanuts, pollen, medicines, insect stings and animal dander.
Children have a higher risk of developing allergies than adults, although some children outgrow their allergies as they get older. A family history of allergies and having asthma also increase the child’s risk of allergies.
Allergies are hereditary and passed from parents to children. So a child with at least one parent with allergies is likely to develop allergies. A child with asthma is also more likely to develop other allergies.
Exposure to allergens when the body’s immune system is weak, such as after a viral infection, also seems to increase the risk of allergies.
The first and most important step in treatment is to identify and avoid your allergy triggers. Your doctor may also prescribe allergy medications to reduce your symptoms. The medication depends on the type of allergy and can be over-the-counter or prescription drugs in the form of oral medications, nasal sprays or eye drops.
In severe allergies, your doctor may suggest allergy shots. Also called immunotherapy, this treatment involves a series of injections of purified allergen extracts, given usually over a period of a few years.
Seek medication attention if your symptoms get worse over a few days, or if they do not improve with treatment. You should see a doctor at once if you suddenly develop severe or rapidly worsening symptoms such as: