Dealing with
Allergies in Children

What to know about allergies in children?

 

Allergies are abnormal reactions of the immune system to certain substances. The body’s immune system mistakenly believes these substances (known as allergens) to be harmful, and produces immunoglobulin E or IgE antibodies to protect the body.

 

Allergies can present with mild reactions of increasing severity. These reactions can be as mild as a skin rash, a runny nose, or frequent sneezing and coughing. Yet some allergies can also manifest as loose bowel movements, vomiting and even an asthma attack.

However, allergic reactions can be more severe, presenting as a fatal generalised reaction, where several of the body’s organs fail to function. Often caused by food allergies, a generalised reaction, such as anaphylaxis, is characterised by swelling of the lips, tongue, throat, or other parts of the body, and difficulty in breathing and swallowing with loss of consciousness.
That is why even if allergies are common, it is best for parents to be vigilant and seek medical help as soon as you suspect an allergic reaction in your child.

The usual suspects

 

Allergic reactions are usually triggered by environmental factors typically in those with a genetic predisposition. A person does not inherit a particular allergy; however, a family history of allergy can increase the likelihood of developing allergies. If both parents have allergies, their child has a 60 to 80 % chance of developing an allergy.

Even with no family history of allergies, a child still has up to 15 % chance of developing an allergy. Substances that cause allergic reactions are called allergens. They can be inhalants (minute particles in the air), ingestants (for example, foods or medicine) or contactants (chemicals that skin comes into contact with).

 

Here are the most common allergens in children:

  • Dust and dust mites: Dust mites are tiny bugs that live in house dust. They breed in damp environments, such as air-conditioned and carpeted rooms. Their droppings typically cause mild allergic reactions.
  • Moulds: These are microscopic fungi that are found in humid areas. They send out small spores that can invade the respiratory tract, causing hay fever (allergic rhinitis). Thousands of mould variants exist, but only a few are significant allergens.
  • Pollen: Pollen, borne through the air, is released from plants for fertilisation. But some pollen can accidentally land inside human noses and mouths.
  • Milk: This is the most common allergy in infants who are allergic to cow’s milk and may also react unfavourably to goat’s milk and soymilk. Milk allergy disappears in some cases as children grow older; however, some children may never outgrow it though.
  • Shellfish: Crustaceans such as prawn, lobster, crayfish or crab are the most common seafood allergens.

How to prevent and treat allergies in children?

 

In treating allergic reactions, doctors can prescribe antihistamines such as cetirizine, the active ingredient in Texa Allergy Syrup.

Such antihistamines block the effects of the substance called histamine in your body. Histamine is normally released when your body detects something harmful, such as an infection. It causes blood vessels to expand and the skin to swell, which helps protect the body. But in people with allergies, the body mistakes some harmless substances – such as pollen, animal hair or house dust – for a threat and produces histamine.

Antihistamines are usually used preventatively and can reduce allergic reactions if taken before you or your child comes into contact with the allergen. Antihistamines can also reduce the severity of symptoms.

 

In severe cases of childhood allergies, where appropriate medical management has not improved symptoms, immunotherapy or desensitisation may be recommended by the doctor/allergist. This entails administering weekly injections of the allergen depending on what the child is allergic to and the severity of the allergy.

 

Importantly, most parents should know that breastfeeding is the first step in preventing allergic reactions. During the first six months of life, breast milk is rich in antibodies that can strengthen a child’s immune system. Thus, in order to prevent allergies in your child, it is recommended that you feed your infant breastmilk exclusively.

Sources
  • Chad, Z. (2001). Allergies in children. Paediatrics & child health, 6(8), 555–566. https://doi.org/10.1093/pch/6.8.555
  • Statistics: Allergy Foundation South Africa. (n.d.) Allergy Prevention Strategies. Available from: https://www.allergyfoundation.co.za/allergy-prevention-strategies/
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Sources
  • Chad, Z. (2001). Allergies in children. Paediatrics & child health, 6(8), 555–566. https://doi.org/10.1093/pch/6.8.555
  • Statistics: Allergy Foundation South Africa. (n.d.) Allergy Prevention Strategies. Available from: https://www.allergyfoundation.co.za/allergy-prevention-strategies/