An overview of allergies in children
Allergies in children are relatively common, and usually result from being exposed to foods, pollen, insect stings and medications. Other allergens that typically lead to eczema and asthma include smoke, dust mites, and environmental pollutants. Despite these different causes, symptoms of individual allergies in children can overlap quite a lot. Often the only treatment is allergen avoidance, so comprehensive allergy testing in a private allergy clinic is often the best way to establish a definite cause for an allergy. This makes it easier to decide the most effective treatment strategy for your child.
Milk, eggs, nuts, fish, wheat and some fruits are responsible for most food allergies in children. Although many have mild effects, some food allergies in children can be potentially serious and may cause anaphylactic shock. It is therefore important to seek professional advice through specialist testing in an allergy clinic.
A paediatric allergist can help identify your child’s triggers via assessments including a skin prick, IgE blood testing, atopy patch testing and provocation challenges, which involve introducing potential allergens to observe the reaction. This can also help to distinguish between a true food allergy and food intolerance. Treatment of food allergies in children usually involves a restricted diet, initially managed by a specialist, who can help your child and your family as a whole to adjust your meals.
Hayfever is the common term for seasonal allergic rhinitis – an allergy to pollen that usually is worst in the summer. Some types of allergic rhinitis can last all year round because of different triggers.
Allergic rhinitis can begin in early childhood and up to 15% of children can be affected. Symptoms of pollen allergies in children include an itchy, blocked, and runny nose, sneezing, and itchy eyes. Mild symptoms can usually be managed with over-the-counter medications and/or avoidance of the allergen where possible. However, in some children, symptoms are more troublesome and require more intensive treatment. Recently, immunotherapy and desensitisation treatments have been developed that can not only control symptoms but also may prevent new allergies in children prone to them.
Asthma in children is often triggered by smoke, dust mites and pollen. An allergy specialist can help your child by identifying their specific triggers using blood tests and patch testing. Treatment can involve conventional therapies such as beta2 agonists or steroids, as well as newer approaches such as desensitisation or anti-IgE therapy.
Allergies in children can make wasp and bee stings extremely frightening as they can lead to life-threatening anaphylactic shock. Older children may benefit from desensitisation, although this is not usually performed in younger children. Often, children grow out of this type of allergy. If your child is anaphylactic, you or your child may need to carry adrenaline for emergency use.
Other allergies in children
Dust mites are a common cause of allergies in children and can trigger asthma, eczema and rhinitis. Allergic contact dermatitis results in a rash where the skin has come into contact with nickel, rubber and related materials, and some types of plant.