Allergy describes a condition involving the immune system that causes sneezing and itching, chronic rashes, wheezing, or even life-threatening allergic reactions. Whether these reactions are minor or serious, there are things you can do to prevent or control most allergic problems.
The more you know about allergies, the more prepared you will be to help your child. Read on for more information from the American Academy of Pediatrics about allergy symptoms, causes, and treatments.
Allergies happen when the part of the body that fights off illnesses (the immune system) overreacts to a usually harmless substance (called an allergen) that is eaten, breathed in, injected, or touched. An allergy is not a disease but a description of a way that the immune system reacts. This allergic reaction can affect different parts of the body, resulting in diseases or conditions such as
Children get allergies from coming into contact with allergens. Allergens can be inhaled, eaten, or injected (from stings or medicine), or they can come into contact with the skin. Some of the more common allergens are
Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction. It comes on quickly and can be fatal. Your child will need to be treated right away followed by a call to 911 or your local emergency number.
The main medicine used to treat anaphylaxis is epinephrine. Your child’s pediatrician will need to prescribe it. If your child has had anaphylaxis or is at high risk, epinephrine should be kept on hand at all times. Children who are old enough can be taught how to give themselves epinephrine if needed. The medicine comes in auto-injector syringes to make self-injection easier. Children at risk should have this medicine at school with instructions from their pediatricians or allergists about how and when to use it. Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine and cetirizine are secondary to epinephrine and should not be relied on to treat anaphylaxis.
Download and fill out an Allergy and Anaphylaxis Emergency Plan at HealthyChildren.org/AnaphylaxisPlan.
Anaphylaxis includes a wide range of symptoms that often happen quickly. The most common symptoms may affect the following parts of the body:
Here are the most common allergens that can trigger anaphylaxis.
Allergies tend to run in families. If a parent has an allergy, there is a higher chance that his or her child will also have allergies. This risk increases if both parents are allergic.
Allergies affecting the nose can result in the following symptoms:
Cold symptoms include
Some allergic conditions show up early in life. For example, eczema often occurs in the first few years after birth, while hay fever usually appears during preschool or early grade school. For some children, allergies lessen around the time of puberty. Others will continue to have problems into adult years.
There are many medicines to treat allergic conditions. Medicines include antihistamine pills or syrup, eye drops, nasal sprays, asthma treatments, and creams or ointments. Some are available over the counter. These medicines can help relieve symptoms such as itching, sneezing, congestion, runny nose, wheeze, cough, and rashes. Allergy medicines may have minor side effects such as sleepiness and irritability. Before using any allergy medicines, carefully read the warnings on the label. If any of these medicines does not relieve your child’s symptoms or if the side effects are too strong, call your pediatrician. Your child may need a different medicine or dose. Although medicines can be helpful, it is also important to identify allergy triggers and remove them when possible.
In some cases, your pediatrician may recommend that your child see a board-certified allergist, a doctor who specializes in allergies. The allergist will most likely
Allergy shots, also called immunotherapy, may be recommended. These shots contain small amounts of the substances to which your child is allergic. This therapy allows your child’s body to become less sensitive to these substances. Allergy shots can help decrease symptoms of hay fever and asthma and prevent anaphylaxis from insect sting allergies. However, they are not available for food allergies.
Identifying and avoiding the things your child is allergic to is best. If your child has an allergic condition, try to identify and avoid triggers in the following ways:
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