Early Treatment of Allergies in Children
The massive increase in the emission of pollutants into the environment has had an impact on the rising number of people suffering from allergies. In particular, allergies are becoming increasingly common in children.
Understanding allergies in children
Allergies occur when the body overreacts to allergens or other triggers that are typically harmless to most people. People who have allergies are overly sensitive to a substance (such as peanuts) that can immediately cause a variety of symptoms or complications - including sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, coughing, or even shortness of breath.
Allergies in children are mainly caused by two factors. (1) Genetic Factors: If one or both of a child’s parents have an allergic condition, the child has an increased risk of allergic diseases. (2) Environmental Factors: There are many environmental triggers for allergic diseases including: dust, dust mites, pets, cockroaches, and cigarette smoke etc.; or foods such as seafood, dairy, eggs, wheat, and peanuts etc. A child exposed to strong allergens for an excessive period of time may eventually develop allergic conditions.
Allergic symptoms can be noticeable through many parts of the body - including the skin, respiratory system, and digestive system. Parents should watch for the following symptoms in their children:
- Itching, rashes, and dry skin - especially on the face, cheeks, elbows, knees, and neck
- Respiratory System
- Runny nose, congestion, itchy nose, itchy eyes, coughing, or sneezing throughout the day or intermittently - these symptoms can occur after immediate exposure to environmental triggers
- Coughing or shortness of breath that occurs during exercise or changes in weather
- Digestive System
- Swelling of the lips and red rashes around the mouth
- Nausea, vomiting, stomach bloating, mucousy stool, and bloody stool
Allergic symptoms depend on age. Children at different ages, have different exposures to allergens. For example, infants usually see a doctor due to skin problems, such as a rash from cow’s milk allergy or a rash from clothing washed with detergent and fabric softener. Toddlers who have started crawling or walking are more exposed to additional environmental factors, such as dust and pets.
Snoring can be caused by allergies
Snoring or heavy breathing during deep sleep is a common condition in children with allergies. Snoring is mainly caused by enlarged tonsils and/or enlarged adenoids, which subsequently block the air passage through the back of the nose and throat. In severe cases, children may stop breathing temporarily, which will undoubtedly scare parents. For these reasons, early diagnosis and treatment is very important.
“Quality of Life” is the main goal of treatment
The main goal of treating an allergy is to improve a child’s quality of life, so that children with allergies can enjoy the same activities and opportunities as their peers. For example, children with allergies should be able to recover from a cold within seven days. They should be able to exercise and play sports regularly without being troubled by asthma, coughing, or difficulty breathing.
3 components in the treatment of allergic patients are:
- Avoiding allergens or suspected allergens, such as certain foods (seafood, eggs, peanuts, wheat, and dairy products), dust mites, dust, pet hair, and cigarette smoke; and take extra precautions, such as encasing the mattress with a mattress protector etc.
- Exercising regularly
- Taking the medication as advised, prescribed by a doctor
What parents can do if their children have allergies
Although genetic predisposition is uncontrollable, environmental factors may be controllable – even at the earliest stage in a child’s life.
Pregnant mothers should take care of their health and follow the instructions given to them by their Obstetrician, closely. If there is a concern about the risk of allergies in your baby, minimize the risk by avoiding foods that may cause allergies - such as seafood, eggs, peanuts, dairy products, chocolate, and wheat to prevent your unborn child’s early exposure to these allergens.
Breastfeeding exclusively for at least the first six months may help prevent your baby from developing allergies. Keep the environment clean, and as free from dust and pollution as possible. And most importantly, never smoke in the presence of your children.
Consult a doctor
If you suspect that your child may have an allergic condition, please consult your Pediatrician or Pediatric Allergist for the proper diagnosis and treatment. Allergic symptoms, especially in the respiratory system, can be cured if treated early. If left untreated, they may cause long-term consequences.
Although allergies are becoming more common in children, they can be treated. If you suspect that your children may be suffering from allergies, immediately consult a doctor for prompt diagnosis and treatment. Allergies can be cured if they are treated early.
By Dr. Karl Kalavantavanich, Pediatric Allergist and Immunologist, Children’s Center, Bumrungrad Hospital
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