“Allergic to What?” – Allergies in Kids, And What To Do About Them

Dec 27, 2022

No matter what season it is, allergies are inevitable. As frustrating as it may be, allergic reactions are a natural part of life even with all the medication and information we have in our modern world. Most allergies are not very harmful but understanding their nuances is an important thing to be aware of because they can lead to certain respiratory issues if gone untreated. This is most certainly the case with children because they are more likely than adults to not know the signs or ignore them due to their adolescent behavior. It’s up to you, the parent, to inform and protect your child from these pesky allergens so let’s explore the different types and symptoms that make your child sneeze, cough, and wheeze.

What Are Allergies?

Allergies are abnormal immune system reactions to specific things that are usually harmless to most people. This causes symptoms that can range from minor to possibly life-threatening. Common allergens include certain foods, dust, plant pollen, and medicines.

How Do Allergies Happen?

If a child with an allergy is exposed to that allergen, their immune system mistakenly believes it’s harming their body. It overreacts, treating the substance as an invader, attempting to fight it off. The immune system makes antibodies called immunoglobulin E to protect the body. These cause certain cells to release chemicals into the bloodstream to defend against the allergen “invader”. It’s the release of these chemicals that causes allergic reactions. Reactions can affect the eyes, nose, throat, lungs, skin, and gastrointestinal tract. Future exposure to that same allergen will trigger this allergic response again.

Types of Allergies

There are different types of allergies that children may be exposed to. The first would be Airborne Allergies. This would include dust mites, pollen, molds, pets, and cockroaches.

The next would-be food allergies, this is especially common. Fish, eggs, cow’s milk, shellfish, tree nuts, soy, wheat, and sesame are all typical foods that a child may find themselves allergic to. Sometimes a child may have a small cough or light rash but in more serious cases a child can be so allergic to one of these foods that they may need to be rushed to the hospital. It is crucial to be aware of how allergic your child is to one or more of these foods to prevent serious consequences.

Other common allergies would be certain medications, an insect sting, bite, or chemicals. Some cosmetics or laundry detergents can make children break out in hives. Usually, this is because someone has a reaction to the chemicals in these products. Dyes, household cleaners, and pesticides also can cause allergic reactions in some children.

Why Do Kids Get Allergies?

The tendency to develop allergies is often hereditary. They can be passed down through genes from parents to their kids. But just because a parent has allergies doesn’t mean that their kids will get them. And someone usually doesn’t inherit a particular allergy, just the likelihood of having allergies. Some kids have allergies even if no family member is allergic. Unfortunately, kids who are allergic to one thing often are allergic to others.

There are times when children will have cross-reactions. For example, children who are allergic to birch pollen might have symptoms when they eat an apple because that apple contains a protein like one in the pollen. And for reasons that aren’t clear, people with a latex allergy are more likely to be allergic to foods like kiwi, chestnuts, avocados, and bananas.

Allergy Symptoms

Some allergens may cause sneezing, a runny nose, itchy eyes and ears, and a sore throat. Other items on the list, such as foods, may cause hives (a red, bumpy, itchy skin rash), a stuffy nose, stomach cramps, vomiting, or diarrhea.

There are times when allergens can cause breathing problems like wheezing and shortness of breath. Some allergens, such as foods, are a problem all year long. But others might bother people only during certain seasons. For instance, you might be allergic to pollen from trees, which is present in the air only in the spring.

How Do I Find Out if My Child Has Allergies?

If your child sneezes and itches a lot, wheezes, or often gets sick after eating a certain food, they should get checked for allergies. They will ask your child many questions about their health, about the animals and plants in your home, and about the foods they eat. Your child’s answer will provide clues about what they might be allergic to, and the healthcare provider may ask them to stay away from a pet or stop eating a certain food to see if their symptoms go away.

The healthcare provider may send your youngster to an allergist, a special healthcare provider who helps people who have allergies. An allergist may give them a scratch test to see if a tiny bit of an allergen will cause a reaction on their skin. They will feel a quick pinch when the doctor makes the scratch or scratches. If they are allergic, one or more spots will become bumpy, itchy, and red.

Things That are Mistaken for Allergies

Common Cold

Is it a cold or allergies? Both conditions can cause watery eyes, a runny nose, and sneezing. This may require some investigating to see which one you are experiencing, but if you take over-the-counter drugs and they don’t seem to be doing the trick, there is a good chance you have a cold and not an allergic reaction.

Chronic Hives

Many people mistake chronic hives for allergies. This is understandable as some allergic reactions cause hives, which are characterized by itchy patches of skin that turn into swollen red welts. Hives may be triggered by pet dander, foods such as cow’s milk, tree nuts, and shellfish, certain medications, or pollen, and tend to go away as the allergic symptoms are treated. However, chronic hives last for more than six weeks and may last months or years. If the cause cannot be identified even after a detailed history and testing, the condition is called chronic idiopathic urticaria. Chronic hives may also be associated with thyroid disease, other hormonal problems, or in very rare instances, cancer.

Eczema

Eczema is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition, and although sufferers may develop asthma and sensitivities or allergies to foods and airborne allergens, eczema itself is not an allergy. However, the skin appears very dry and inflamed, resulting in a similar appearance to allergic contact dermatitis, which is a skin allergy that occurs when a person has exposure to a particular material.

Heat Rash

A heat rash is often mistaken for an allergy. The best thing to do is avoid strenuous exercise when it is very warm, use air conditioning and fans in hot weather, take cool showers and baths, dry your skin thoroughly after bathing, wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothes, and drink plenty of fluids to cool the body and to keep hydrated.

Sleep Apnea

If you regularly wake up with a dry throat and tired feeling, you might wonder if you have an allergy when the culprit could be sleep apnea. It is not age-specific, nor does it affect only overweight people. Signs of sleep apnea would be feeling unrefreshed after a full night’s sleep, frequent awakenings during the night, excessive daytime sleepiness or fatigue, being overweight, restless sleep, waking up with headaches, and nighttime acid reflux.

Food Intolerance

People often confuse food intolerance with a food allergy, but there’s a big difference. Food intolerance may often mimic a food allergy by causing nausea and vomiting, but it is not life-threatening. Children may experience symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, or fatigue. An intolerance is not an immune response, and the symptoms generally relate to stomach issues. While an intolerance to a food may make you miserable, a true food allergy can be potentially life-threatening.

Insect Bites

Insect bites can sometimes mimic hives, a skin allergy that can occur in response to ingested allergens, so it’s easy for people to misdiagnose themselves. Like hives, insect bites may appear as raised, itchy bumps, either red or skin-colored.

How Are Allergies Treated?

Sadly, there is no cure for allergies, but symptoms can be managed. The best way to deal with them is to avoid allergens. You should speak to your kids often about the allergy itself and the reactions they can have if they consume or encounter the allergen. It is also important to tell your child’s teachers, family members, and parents of your child’s friends, about your child’s allergy.

If avoiding environmental allergens isn’t possible or doesn’t help, healthcare providers might prescribe medicines, including antihistamines, eye drops, and nasal sprays. In some cases, medical professionals recommend allergy shots to help desensitize a child to an allergen. But these are only helpful for allergens such as dust, mold, pollens, animals, and insect stings. They are not used for food allergies.

Afterthought on Allergies

At some point, your child is going to experience the annoyance of allergies. It may be minor sniffling and coughing, or something more serious like a tree nut or shellfish allergy but nine out of ten times over-the-counter drugs or antibiotics will do the trick and if that doesn’t work the professionals at Chai Care can take a deeper look. Our trained staff is fully equipped to give a proper diagnosis and supply excellent advice so your child can live a proactive and healthy life!

* Legal disclaimer: The content of this article and the entire Chai Care blog is for educational purposes only; it does NOT constitute medical advice and must not be considered as such. Please consult a medical professional regarding any symptoms or health concerns you or your loved ones.

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