Cough, sneeze, watery eyes, runny nose, irritated skin, sometimes a wheeze and itchy throat: sound familiar? All of these are symptoms associated with allergies. An allergy is a sign that the body has encountered something it dislikes and is reacting to its presence. Almost anything that can be touched, breathed, or ingested can trigger an allergic reaction. These are particularly annoying to children and can lead to irritability, loss of sleep, and poor appetite. It is important to pay attention to your children’s allergies because they may be the forerunners of more severe illnesses such as ear infections, asthma, and eczema. Allergies may be evident in the first few days of life although most show up later.
In early childhood, skin rashes, upset stomach, and diarrhea may be the first signs of allergy, especially if a baby is bottle-fed on cow’s milk formulas.
Toddlers and pre-school children with allergies usually exhibit red, watery, and itchy eyes, along with a runny nose, a cough, sneezing, and wheezing. (Stomachaches, diarrhea, loss of appetite and weight loss are less common but do occur.)
In severe allergies, such as those from stinging insects, peanuts, or dairy products, anaphylaxis may occur. This serious condition is characterized by difficulty breathing, pale and clammy skin, and loss of consciousness.
Begin by a assessing when allergic symptoms occur and what food, plant, product, or insect may be associated. When an offending substance is known, avoid it!
Temporary elimination diets may be an effective strategy to pinpoint an allergic reaction to foods.
Use antihistamines, cortisone creams and other medications only upon medical advice.
Call your Doctor If
- Symptoms persist in spite of attempts to avoid contact with suspected offenders.
- Eczema develops.
- Wheezing occurs.
- If signs of severe reactions develop, call immediately.
Most allergies are more irritating than life-threatening. However, children who exhibit symptoms should be evaluated for a possible cause and have a treatment plan developed. If there is a potential for a severe reaction, keep an automatic injection system of epinephrine, such as an epi-pen, readily available. The goals of managing allergies include avoiding their cause whenever possible, following medical advice, knowing how to handle an emergency, and keeping a good supply of tissues handy!
By Dr. Olson Huff