What is an allergy?
A childhood allergy is the response of the body's immune system to normally harmless substances, such as pollens, foods, and house dust mite. Whilst these substances (allergens) normally pose no problem, an allergic person’s immune system identifies them as a’ threat’ and produces an inappropriate response, or an allergic reaction. Here are some things that you should know about allergies.
What causes allergies?
Almost anything can be an allergen. When substances in the environment cause an allergic reaction in someone, they are known as allergens. For example, a childhood allergy can be caused by allergens from food.
What are the common allergens affecting children?
Common allergens affecting children include:
• Foods: Seafood, peanuts, eggs, dairy products (this should not be confused with lactose intolerance)
• Pollens from tree and plants, insect bites or stings.
• Animal hair or fur. These can commonly come from pets at home.
• Perfume and cigarette smoke.
If you suspect your child has a childhood allergy, you should get your child tested by the doctor. Keep a good record of possible triggers for your child’s allergic reaction and its related symptoms.
What are the common symptoms of childhood allergy?
Symptoms can give your doctor a clue into the type of allergen your child is exposed as different allergens have different symptoms. Do note that even with these symptoms, your child may not have a childhood allergy. It is still best to have your child tested. Having a good record of symptoms and possible triggers is a good start.
• Itchy, watery, red or swollen eyes
• Difficulty in breathing such as wheezing, shortness of breath or coughing
• Swollen or itchy lips or tongue
• Vomiting, constipation, diarrhoea
• Runny, blocked or itchy nose
• Pain from sinuses, headache or sore throat
• Hives, allergy rashes or eczema
How do you treat allergies?
If your child appears to have a severe case of allergy, you should make a visit to the doctor. Your regular doctor should be able to provide you with the right medical advice depending on the severity of the allergy.
In most cases, before your child is treated for allergy, your child will be given an allergy test which can be done as a skin test or an allergy blood test.
Once diagnosed with allergy, you child may receive some of these common treatments:
• Emollients or moisturising creams
Other treatments may include:
How long does the treatment last?
Your child may look and feel better but when the medication is removed, it may cause the symptoms to reappear or escalate. Always follow the treatment and use the medication as prescribed by your doctor.
What can you do about it in the meantime?
The risk of allergies can be reduced. The best outcome comes from an early diagnosis. As family history plays a crucial role determining the risk of allergy, the first step, and perhaps the most fundamental, is to look into parental history. You can also have your healthcare professional perform an allergy test for your child.
Remember that your child is growing and the environment your child grows and plays in may also change. Treatments that have worked before may not work now. Periodically review with your doctor your child’s symptoms and reactions. If a change in treatment is warranted, your record and observations will help the doctor in reviewing the treatment that is suitable for your child.
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