What is an allergy?

An allergy is a sign that the body has encountered something it doesn’t like and is objecting to having it around. Allergies may result from almost anything that can be touched, breathed or ingested. They are particularly annoying to children and often lead to a number of miseries including irritability, loss of sleep, and poor appetite. In many instances they may be the forerunners of illnesses such as ear infections, asthma and eczema. Allergies may be evident as early as the first few days of life although most show up just a bit later.

Hives

Symptoms

  • In early childhood, skin rashes, upset stomach and diarrhea may be the first signs of allergy.
  • Red, watery and itchy eyes, along with runny nose, cough, sneezing and wheezing are commonly seen symptoms of allergies in toddlers and pre-school children.  
  • Stomachaches, diarrhea, loss of appetite and loss of weight are less common but do occur.
  • In severe allergies, such as those from stinging insects, peanuts or dairy products, a condition known as anaphylaxis may occur. This condition is characterized by difficulty breathing, pale and clammy skin and loss of consciousness. 

Eczema

Treatment

  • Begin by carefully assessing when allergic symptoms occur and what contact with food, plant, product or insect may be associated.
  • When an offending substance, such as a dairy product, eggs or poison ivy is known, avoid it! 
  • Elimination diets may help pinpoint allergies to foods.  
  • Antihistamines, cortisone creams and other medications should be used only upon medical advice.                 

Call the Doctor if:

  • Symptoms persist in spite of attempts to avoid contact with suspected offenders. 
  • Eczema develops.
  • Wheezing occurs.
  • Immediately, if signs of severe reactions develop – difficulty breathing, pale and clammy skin and loss of consciousness. 

Most allergies are more irritating than life threatening. However, children who do exhibit symptoms should be evaluated for a possible cause and steps taken to initiate treatment. If there is a potential for a severe reaction, an automatic injection system of epinephrine, such as an epi-pen, should always be readily available.

The goals to managing allergies include:

  • Avoiding, whenever possible what causes them   
  • Following medical advice    

Does your child have an allergy? How have you managed it?

By Olson Huff MD