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Common Allergies in Children to Watch Out For

Allergies in kids show up with all sorts of symptoms like sneezing, wheezing, itching, etc. These symptoms also vary in severity and tend to change all the time. Allergens are lurking around everywhere and can even sneak into the school lunch of your child. Even weather changes can cause allergies in kids. As a responsible parent, you should look out for signs of the most common allergies in kids. If you do notice any symptom, it is probably the time to visit the best pediatrician in Chennai.

If your child does have an allergy, you should know that he/she is not the only one. A vast majority of people in Chennai have allergies, which usually show up in childhood or infancy. Allergies can hinder your kid's ability to function well in school, sleep properly, and even play. You need to know exactly what to look out for and how to determine if the symptoms your child is showing is that of an allergy.

Allergies are more common than they used to be Food and skin allergies in children have grown in prevalence over recent years. Respiratory allergies, which are most common among kids, have been occurring at somewhat a similar rate over the years. The prevalence of allergies also tends to vary with age. Skin allergies tend to be more common among younger children, while respiratory allergies are more common among older children. Similarly, skin-related symptoms are common in younger kids, while wheezing is a common symptom among older children.

What happens when your kid has allergies? If your kid is allergic to a certain substance, which could be normal for others but not for his/her body, the immune system tries to defend against the substance. This causes an allergic reaction. The offending substance, or the allergen, can be pet dander, pollen from trees or grass, or even food. These substances can trigger a variety of reactions.

The immune systems react to the substance as it would if it were fighting a foreign invader.

Basic signs of allergies If your kid has itchy, runny, swollen, or red eyes that don't get better for, over a couple of weeks, your child might have allergies. The same is the case with a runny nose. You need to check if the symptoms are chronic, if your child scratches his/her ears, or if there is a tingle or an itch in his/her throat or mouth. All of these can be symptoms of an allergy, possible of allergic rhinitis or hay fever, which children are most commonly allergic to. You should also note if the symptoms occur every year around the same time.

Common triggers of allergy in childrenOutdoors: plant pollen, tree pollen, insect stings or bites • Indoors: animal or pet fur or hair, mold, dust mites • Irritants: perfume, car exhaust, cigarette smoke • Foods: eggs, peanuts, milk, and milk products

If you suspect symptoms of allergy in your child, look for the best pediatrician in Chennai and make an appointment. There are several good pediatricians located in Chennai, so you won't have a hard time finding one. Before your appointment, it is a good idea to take notes for keeping track of the symptoms your child exhibits. To give you a better idea, some of the most common allergies in children are listed below, along with their symptoms and treatment.

1. Seasonal Allergies Commonly known as hay fever, seasonal allergic rhinitis, or seasonal allergies, affect over six million children every year. It is the most common type of allergy that children experience. These allergies happen during seasonal changes and cause symptoms because of spores being released by outdoor molds, and pollen being released into the air by grasses, weeds, and trees.

Your kid's breathing may also be affected due to seasonal allergies or other allergies. Check for your child showing signs like shortness of breath or rapid breathing, or if there is a wheezing sound when your child breathes. A hacking, dry cough accompanied with clear mucus may also be an indication of respiratory allergy. Also, when your child is playing, if he/she tends to tire earlier or more easily than other kids, it might be an indication of allergies.

Symptoms of seasonal allergies in children A common sign of your child having a seasonal allergy is a recurring cold around the same time of the year every year. If your child shows the following symptoms suddenly and persistently, schedule an appointment with a pediatrician:

• Sneezing • Nasal congestion • Itchy throat and/or nose • Runny, clear nose • Coughing

It is common for these symptoms to be accompanied by red, itchy, and/or watery eyes, which is known as allergic conjunctivitis. Apart from these symptoms, if your child has shortness of breath and wheezing, the allergy might have progressed and turned into asthma.

Treatment of seasonal allergies in children If you suspect your child has allergies, get in touch with the best pediatrician in Chennai. The pediatrician will ask about your child's symptoms and when they occur. He/she will also perform a physical exam before making a diagnosis. If the pediatrician is unable to make a diagnosis, he/she will recommend allergy skin or blood tests and refer you to an allergist if required.

2. Skin Allergies If your child has allergies, it doesn't always mean that he/she will sneeze and cough. The largest organ of the body is the skin and it is also a part of the body's immune system. Sometimes, the skin reacts against an allergen. Around 10% of children around the globe have eczema, while many others experience allergic hives, swelling, and rashes.

Check for eczema on your kid's skin. Eczema shows up as red, scaly, and dry patches that tend to itch. You should also check for hives as they can also be a sign of an allergy. These are red welts that appear on the skin and can vary significantly in size.

Symptoms of skin allergies in children There are three most common types of skin allergies, which are categorized according to their symptoms. They are:

Eczema: Scaly, red and dry patches • An allergic rash caused by touching something: Redness of the skin or rash, severe itching, and scaly, thick patches appearing on the skin that keeps developing over time. • Swelling and hives: The size of these can range from that of a tip of a pen to that of a dinner plate.

Treatment of skin allergies in children Several of the skin allergies in kids can be simply treated by maintaining clean, healthy, and moist skin. If the allergy is still persistent, your doctor may recommend using a topical cream. You should get the information from your doctor about how and when to use the cream. The doctor may also prescribe an antihistamine for easing the itchiness and helping your kid sleep.

3. Food Allergies Food allergy is also quite common among children, with the younger ones being affected the most. You should know that food allergies are different from food intolerance. In the case of a food allergy, there is a reaction from the immune system that affects different organs of the body.

Intestinal symptoms can be set off in children due to allergies. If there are repeated incidents of diarrhoea or if your child is experiencing frequent stomach cramps, it may indicate an allergic reaction. Excessive fatigue or headache can also be indications of allergies in children.

Allergies may also affect your child's behaviour and mood, making them unusually restless or crabby. Before visiting a pediatrician near me, try to keep a log of the symptoms your child is showing. Make sure you note down the symptom and what could have caused its onset (like eating a specific food or being exposed to a pet).

The eight most common food allergens Following are the eight foods which are known to contribute to as much as 90% of food allergies:

• milk • peanuts • eggs • tree nuts like almonds, walnuts, and cashews • fish, like bass, flounder, and cod • shellfish, like crab, shrimp, and lobster • wheat • soy

Food manufacturers are required to list these ingredients if their food product contains any of them. Apart from the above mentioned 8 food items, some children cannot also tolerate citrus foods. It is not always easy to find out which food allergen has caused an allergy and you may have to look deep to find the connection. For example, soy can be found in thickeners or flavourings found in frozen or processed foods, and there might be traces of peanut in cereals.

Symptoms of food allergies in children The allergic reaction to a food allergen tends to vary with each kid, both in terms of severity and location. The 4 most common categories of food allergy include:

Skin: eczema; hives; swelling of extremities or face; swelling and itching of the tongue, lips, or mouth; and other skin reactions • Respiratory tract: stuffy or runny nose • Gastrointestinal tract: vomiting; nausea; diarrhoea; abdominal pain • Cardiovascular system: light-headedness; fainting

Diagnosing food allergies in children As mentioned before, there isn't always an obvious link between allergy symptoms and a food allergen. You may need the help of an allergist to find out exactly what has caused the allergic reaction. The allergist will help diagnose the cause of the food allergy through a combination of blood tests, skin tests, and an elimination diet. The test results will be used to find out which food has caused the allergy if any.

Outgrowing food allergy You would be happy to hear the kids that have food allergies commonly outgrow them.

• Around 80% of children with allergies to milk outgrow them eventually • About 2/3rd of children who are allergic to eggs outgrow them • In the case of soy or wheat allergies, about 80% of children outgrown them by the age of 5. • 20% of children with peanut allergy outgrow them eventually • Around 10% of children who are allergic to tree nuts outgrow them.

4. Pet allergies Symptoms of allergy in children can also be provoked by pets present in the house, even the ones who are shorthaired and do not shed. The allergy is not caused by the animal, but its saliva, dead skin cells (dander), fur, and urine. If your kid wheezes and sneezes after holding or playing with a pet, you should consider having him/her tested for pet allergies.

How to manage allergies? You would need the help of your child's pediatrician to find out if the symptoms your child is showing are related to allergies. If so, they can also help you formulate a plan for managing the allergy. There may be a need for medications like antihistamines for easing symptoms of skin, intestinal, or respiratory allergies. You will need to teach your kid ways to reduce or avoid allergic reactions, which includes avoiding specific foods, washing hands straight away after touching an animal, and playing outside only when there are low pollen counts.

Make sure you inform your child's school about any allergy your child may be having. In case your child suffers from a severe allergy or asthma, make sure you provide the action plan for your child to the administrative office or the school nurse. You would also want to discuss medication access for your child in case of emergencies, including adrenaline or epinephrine.

School pets: The presence of animals in school might be problematic if your child is allergic. If your child shows symptoms of asthma or allergy while at school, including difficulty breathing, coughing, sneezing, runny nose, or a rash, it could be because of the class pet.

Dust irritation: If your child has allergic issues, you should recommend them to sit as far away from the blackboard as possible for avoiding irritation due to chalk dust.

Physical education and asthma: For many children, sports and physical education form a huge part of the school routine. If your child has asthma, it doesn't necessarily mean that you need to avoid these activities completely. Children with allergic diseases and asthma should be allowed to participate in a sport of their choice, provided they follow the advice of their doctor. Symptoms of asthma during exercise may be an indication of poor control. You need to make sure your child is regularly taking controller asthma medications. Symptoms can often be controlled by administering medications through an inhaler before exercising.

Witnessing your child suffer from an allergic reaction is no less painful than experiencing it yourself. Allergy symptoms are caused when your child comes in contact with sources of allergen. If that happens, your child's body confuses these allergens with harmful substances and releases the histamine in the body to attack them. Seasonal or other allergens can be found both indoors and outdoors.

Whether your child is at home, a friend's place, school, or football practice, it is not possible for them to avoid allergens completely. Having said that, there are ways through which exposure to common triggers of allergy can be minimized and the symptoms of an allergic reaction can be managed to provide some relief to your child. Here are a few things you can consider doing if your child has allergies:

Informing peers: You can never have control over allergens being present when your kid goes to school, plays with friends, or spends the night at grandparents. What you can do is inform people who are in regular contact with your kid about the allergy and let them know what can be done to help.

Practicing regular washing: A great way of reducing exposure to allergens is to help your child develop a habit of washing their hands and face when they come home. They should also change their clothes immediately after reaching home

Discuss with your child: Your kid may understand way more than what you think. Have an open discussion with your child about allergies and what can trigger them. That way, they have an idea of what they should avoid, be it a friendly stray animal or dust in their classroom.

Keep track of allergy symptoms: Symptoms of allergies in children may include sneezing, runny nose, itchy throat, watery eyes, and itchy eyes. You may want to keep track of your kid's symptoms as it will allow you to have a better understanding of what is causing all that sneezing and sniffling.

Sufficient sleep: Allergies can affect your child's sleep, causing daytime fatigue and impacting school performance. You should make sure your children get sufficient rest so they can be their best throughout the day.

Manage outdoor and indoor allergies: When outdoors, your kid is exposed to allergens from mold and pollen when they roll in the grass or climb trees. Similarly, there are enough triggers indoors at your home, friends' place, or in school. You should know how to manage outdoor and indoor allergic reactions and help your child adapt to it.

Allergies affect innumerable children every year and they are not always mild. The best way of shielding your child is to identify allergy triggers and avoid them. If you notice allergy symptoms, visit Rainbow Children's Hospital


Senior Consultant - General Pediatrics MBBS,MD(Pediatrics),MRCPCH,SCE Endocrinology& Diabetes, Diploma in UK Medical Practice.