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Oh no, THEY’RE ALLERGIC

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Allergies in children have become a concern for many parents, especially those with young children. Research has found allergies in children have increased significantly in recent years, with allergic reactions the most common cause of childhood illness. [1]

Allergies occur when your child’s immune system reacts to a substance in the environment, called allergens, that most people find harmless. The immune system responds to allergens by releasing chemicals to protect your child’s body, which can cause an allergic reaction, such as itchy rash or skin swelling.

If the same allergic reaction occurs every time your child comes in contact with the same substance, it could mean your child has an allergy.

Seeing your children react to harmless substances can be upsetting. Although some allergies are common, allergic reactions can cause symptoms that are potentially life threatening, known as anaphylaxis.

Parents with children who have allergies must stay vigilant of the potential risks so symptoms are immediately noticed without delay. Early childhood testing can confirm allergies to help you prepare and adapt any lifestyle changes in your child’s daily routine.

Common allergies in children 

Allergies occur in children often if one of their parents had the same allergy. However, just because you had an allergy it doesn’t mean it has been passed onto your kids.

Common children’s allergies in Australia include:

  • Pollen (known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis)
  • Food, such as peanuts, cow’s milk, wheat and eggs
  • Airborne dust mites
  • Pets
  • Insect bites or stings
  • Chemicals in metal jewellery, clothing dye and sunscreen.

Food allergies are the most common allergy in children under four years old. [2] Although some children who have food allergies may grow out of their allergy, children may develop allergies to other foods as adults. Other ailments such as hay fever and asthma can begin to develop. [2]

There are less common allergies that can occur in children, which includes medications, mould and latex (rubber products). Whilst these allergies are less common, children can still have serious reactions.

When to test children for allergies 

Getting your child tested before they start school is crucial. Early identification of childhood allergies can improve your child’s quality of life and reduce the number of missed school days. It can also mean you will use less leave to care for your child.

When allergies develop in young children, it’s important for parents to take

long-term preventative measures that can be developed and set. This is especially important for serious and life-threatening allergies.

In Australia, children under four years old with food allergies are the most likely to be hospitalised for serious allergic reactions. [3] Early diagnosis for food allergies can help you adjust your children’s food habits before they are independently eating at school.

If you suspect your child may have an allergy, having skin tests, blood tests and elimination diets can help you understand how to avoid specific substances and understand the precautions to take to protect your child.

How to prepare for allergies 

If you have a child with allergies, you will have to adjust your child’s lifestyle significantly to incorporate various control measures.

  • Keep family pets out of children’s bedrooms
  • Remove carpets, rugs or heavy drapes and other items that allow dust to build up and vacuum regularly
  • Keep windows closed during pollen season and don’t let children outside when lawns are mowed
  • Use protective mattress and pillow slip covers and regularly wash linen
  • Wear protective clothing to cover children when outside from insect stings and bites
  • Avoid all food products that cause allergic reactions. This includes always checking food labels for ingredients and cross contamination, even contacting food production companies
  • Keep a children’s antihistamine in your home’s first aid kit to use for mild to moderate allergic reactions.

When you’re introducing solid food for the first time, try one new food at a time around two days apart so you can easily identify any foods that cause an allergic reaction. If you notice your child has an allergic reaction, stop feeding and immediately seek medical advice. [4]

If your child has a serious allergic reaction you need to call an ambulance straightaway to go to the hospital. You should also be prepared to act quickly during an anaphylactic reaction, which includes recognising signs and how to use a prescribed epinephrine injector. Regular visits to your doctor to retain skills can reduce your anxiety for managing emergency reactions that require admission to hospital. [3]

Speaking to your children’s school is also valuable for allergies, including how to safely store a prescribed epinephrine injector for emergencies.

If you are concerned your child may have an allergy or to find out more you can contact us to make an appointment with Dr Indu Gunawardena. Through physical examination and skin tests, Dr Indu can determine the allergens that specifically affect your child and the most suitable treatment.

Dr Gunawardena performs skin prick allergy tests in her clinic and offers sublingual immunotherapy that is the targeted therapy for specific allergens that your child may be positive to on their allergy tests. Please contact us and express your interest to undergo an allergy test and we can book an allergy appointment for you.

References

[1] Chad Z. Allergies in children Paediatr Child Health 2001;6(8):555-86

[2] Lodge CJ. Allen KJ. Lowe AJ. et al. Overview of evidence in prevention and aetiology of food allergy: A review of systematic reviews Int J Environ Res Public Health 2013;10(11):5781-5806

[3] Simons RER. Ebisawa M. Sanchez-Borges M. et al 2015 update of the evidence base: World allergy organization anaphylaxis guidelines World Allergy Organization Journal 2015;8:32

[4] Information on how to introduce solid foods to infants published by the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) accessed on the 24 April 2017 https://www.allergy.org.au/patients/allergy-prevention/ascia-how-to-introduce-solid-foods-to-infants