ParenTalk- Allergies And Young Children
What Are Allergies?
When the immune system reacts strongly to a foreign substance, an allergy occurs. These foreign substances are mostly harmless to other people who are not allergic to them. These include certain foods, medicines, pollen, bee venom, pet fur, etc. Allergens differ from person to person. When a person comes in contact with a substance that they are allergic to, their immune system thinks that the substance is causing harm. The immune system produces antibodies to allergens that it thinks are harmful, even though they are not. When the person comes in contact with the allergen, the reaction of the immune system can cause skin rashes or lesions, inflammation in sinuses, or digestive troubles. This is because the antibodies direct certain cells to release chemicals in the bloodstream to defend against the foreign substance.
The severity of these allergies is also different for everyone. The same allergens could cause mild irritation for some people and life-threatening conditions for some others. Most allergies do not have a cure. You must avoid the allergens to prevent allergic reactions in your child. There are also treatments to help you with the symptoms if an allergic reaction occurs.
According to research, nearly 20-30% of Indians are allergic to at least one substance, out of these, at least 15% develop asthma.
Who is likely to get allergies?
Allergies can be hereditary, but that doesn’t mean all children will inherit allergies from their parents. Also, most people just inherit the likelihood of getting allergies rather than particular allergies. Many kids get allergies despite no other family member being allergic. It is also likely for a person with one allergy to have others, as well.
Common Allergens in Kids:
Here are the most common allergens in kids:
Airborne particles are the most common allergens. They include pollens, dust mites, molds, dander, cockroaches, etc.
- Dust mites: These are microscopic insects invisible to the naked eye. They are all around us and feed on dead skin cells that our bodies shed. Dust allergies mostly mean allergies to mites. These mites are mostly present in upholstery, bedding, and carpets.
- Pollens: Pollens are plant particles that the trees or grasses release to fertilize other plants. These allergies are seasonal and the symptoms vary based on the type of pollen causing the allergy. The severity of symptoms in allergic people also depends on the pollen count i.e. the number of pollens in the air on a particular day. Pollen counts are lower on wet and chilly days and high on warm and dry days. It is also higher in the mornings as compared to evenings.
- Molds: Molds usually occur in warm and moist environments. They are a type of fungi and can be found both indoors and outdoors. Outdoors, the likelihood of molds is higher when the drainage is poor. This includes compost piles or dumps of old rotting leaves. Indoors, molds occur in dark areas with poor ventilation. You can spot them mostly in bathrooms and basements that do not have adequate ventilation.
- Pet Allergens: Animal saliva, dander, and urine are the most common pet allergens. These allergies occur if the pet pee is not cleaned or when they lick themselves, the fur dries and the particles then become airborne
- Cockroaches: While most of us are irked by cockroaches, they are a lot more harmful than we believe. These household allergens occur mostly in inner cities and are responsible for asthma in kids.
Food allergies: Food allergies are less common in Indian children as compared to those in the west. In India, 0.14% of children between the age group of 6-11 years. This is lower than the prevalence of airborne allergies.
Common food allergens for kids include cow’s milk, eggs, fish, nuts, soy, wheat, and shellfish. Cow milk allergies can also be caused due to the presence of milk protein as a hidden ingredient in packaged foods. While many children outgrow these allergies, it continues till adulthood for others. According to AAP, parents must introduce common allergens as soon as they introduce solids to prevent peanut allergies.
Other Allergens: Other common allergens for kids include insect venom allergies, medicines, antibiotics, and chemicals found in cosmetic products or detergents. Apart from these common allergens, different kids may be allergic to different foods like kiwi, bananas, etc.
Allergy signs and symptoms also vary based on person and type of allergy. In the same person, the symptoms may be mild once and severe later. Some common symptoms include itchy eyes, stuffy nose, sneezing, breathing difficulties, puking, fainting episodes, hives, rashes, wheezing, stomachache, diarrhea, coughing, hoarseness, etc.
How to find out if your child has an allergy:
Some allergies are easy to spot, but others may show symptoms similar to other conditions. Keep an eye out for new ingredients in food and if they cause any noticeable changes in your child. An allergist is the right person to treat or diagnose allergies. If cold-like symptoms persist for your child or if you think they get cold at the same time each year, you must get them assessed for allergies.
Treatment of allergies:
Most allergies cannot be cured. However, you can manage the symptoms if the child happens to come in contact with allergens. To stay clear of danger and discomfort, one must avoid allergens. As a parent, you must educate your child about things they must avoid and reactions they may have. Also, educate others around you to not force the child or hide the allergens while offering food to your child. Be vigilant of nosy relatives who don’t believe in allergies. Remember, they won’t be around if the child lands in the emergency room.
While it may not be possible to avoid airborne allergens, go by your doctor’s advice and use medicines that help. Your doctor may also advise immunotherapy for airborne allergens.
Precautions to take if your child seems to be allergic to airborne allergens:
- Stay clear of pets. If you are in a house with pets, keep the pet away from the child’s bedroom
- Do not use rugs and carpets and avoid furry or velvet upholstery and cushions.
- Use curtains that are easy to wash and wash frequently
- Use vacuum cleaner instead of brooms and brushes
- Reduce the exposure during pollen season by keeping the windows closed
- Avoid damp areas if your child is allergic to mold
- Read labels to spot any allergens
- If you cook separate allergen-free food at home for your child, beware of the risk of cross-contamination. This means, do not let the food come in contact with cutlery or surfaces that come in contact with allergens.
Being aware is the best way to save your child from allergic reactions. Many people deny food allergies because they think it is all in the mind and believe children should eat everything to get over it. This is a dangerous approach. Always go by your instinct, child’s comfort, and doctor’s advice to ensure your child stays safe and comfortable.
Smriti is a freelance content writer and an avid reader. She quit her 6 year-long IT career to embrace her love for writing. She writes content across genres and takes pride in her ability to research and carve magic with words. She passionately writes about parenting and is currently working on her book. When not writing or reading, she can be seen running behind any of her 2 kids or learning Deutsch.