As parents, we always want our child to be protected from harm at all times. Thanks to the immune system, our children (and us included) are protected from infection, viruses, and diseases. However, there are times that the system overreacts to certain substances even though they are supposed to be harmless (think peanut butter, really?!). These substances trigger an allergic reaction which could result in various symptoms from mild to severe or even life threatening. Therefore, it is important for parents to know what to look for and what to do if your baby has any allergic reaction.
While much research has been done, it is still not clear why some children have allergic reactions, but others don’t. Some say that family history plays a part in this, which means there might be more than one member in your family allergic to the same thing.
There are many factors that could cause allergies in children, but the triggers to allergic reactions belong to one of these three major groups:
- consumption (food and medicine);
Believe it or not, the most common group that causes allergy reactions in children is from what we feed them, hence Consumption (food and medicine). Ranging from dairy products, nuts, soy, wheat, seafood to regular fruits and vegetables like berries or even spinach. I remember being so excited to make a delicious pumpkin puree for my seven month old daughter, only to discover that after eating it, she had broken out in a horrible rash that took weeks to get rid of. So sadly, no pumpkin for my little pumpkin!
Food allergy symptoms may show within minutes to hours after consumption and can include hives, eczema, cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, itching or swelling of lips, tongues or mouth, difficult breathing, etc.
In extreme cases, food allergy can cause anaphylaxis (anaphylactic shock). This reaction causes the immune system to release a flood of chemicals, puts the body in shock resulting in blood pressure drops sharply suddenly. Seek medical care immediately if the child shows any breathing problem, pale, clammy skin, and dizziness.
It is always recommended to introduce one food at a time when we start baby on solid to make sure we can observe any allergy reaction. Some parents find that keeping a journal is helpful, especially with kids who are more prone to allergy.
A lot of time, the food that causes allergic reaction can be reintroduced later in life after consulting with and approved by a pediatrician. The same caution would also apply to any medication, especially when it is new to your child.
Pay extra attention to his or her reaction or behavior, since lots of them cannot communicate yet (if they are too young) but would not stop scratching, for example. And always consult with a specialist or pediatrician before giving your child any over the counter remedies or medications.
The second common group is Environmental Allergy. Anything from dust mites, mold, perfume, insect stings to soap and detergents can trigger allergy symptoms which include sneezing, coughing, runny nose, red and itchy eyes, hives, rash, or itchy, bumpy skin, etc. In other cases, a family pet could also be a culprit for a child allergy. Be sure to observe and document any symptoms to help identify this allergy.
And last but not least, it is the Seasonal Allergy. It is very common not only among children but adults as well. When the weather changes and trees or grasses are in bloom, pollen in the air will trigger the reaction of the immune system. The symptoms could be similar to the symptoms of environmental allergy include sneezing, sniffling, stuffy or runny nose, red and itchy eyes, plus ear pain which could lead to chronic infection.
there are many over the counter antihistamine medications or steroid nasal spray and cream that can help alleviate allergy symptoms. However, don’t be too fast to reach for those without consulting with a pediatrician.
If it is necessary, an allergist may be consulted if your child is prone to allergy or experienced extreme reaction to certain allergens in the past. In that case, a pediatrician might prescribe an Epipen to be carried with you at all times (we have a few lying around the house, diaper bag, etc.) However, be sure to check for expiration dates if you don’t use them, and replace them if they are expired.
There are also many tests that can be performed to identify the type of allergy and appropriate treatment, so don’t hesitate to seek professional medical advice.
Well, that sounds like a ton of information and there seems like threats everywhere to our children. However, at the end of the day, we still need to let our kids explore, try things for themselves and help them build up their immune system (of course still under our supervision). “A little dirt doesn’t hurt”, my mom always said.