Allergic reactions in young children can be serious, even deadly. It’s important to learn how to spot the signs and symptoms associated with allergies so they can be treated quickly.
If your child sneezes or coughs a lot, has a persistent rash or hives, or experiences cramps, stomach ache or nausea after eating certain foods, they may have allergies.
Allergies are more common in children whose family members have a history of allergic reactions, although any child can develop allergies.
What are allergies?
An allergy is an immune reaction to a substance in the environment, often called an allergen. If a child with an allergy makes contact with an allergen in their environment, their body’s immune system reacts by releasing antibodies to fight off the ‘invader.’
Contact with an allergen can occur through eating, touching or breathing. If a mother is breastfeeding, her baby may have an allergic reaction to foods the mother has eaten and passed through her breast milk.
When the child comes into contact with the allergen, their body releases chemicals which trigger allergic symptoms.
The chemical reaction can cause a variety of symptoms – some mild, others severe.
An allergen can also cause a severe reaction called anaphylactic shock, creating symptoms that include swelling and breathing difficulty, which can be life threatening.
What can trigger an allergic reaction?
Young children are exposed to new foods, new environments and new situations on a regular basis. Allergies can develop at any age and most are easily treated and not life-threatening.
Allergies can be broken down into four categories:
1. Food allergies
- soy products
- shellfish (such as prawns or crab)
- tree nuts (such as walnuts and cashews)
2. Outdoor allergies
- insect bite
- bee sting
- tree pollen
- plant pollen
3. Indoor allergies
- animal hair or fur
- dust mites
- skin products
- cigarette smoke
- smog or car exhaust fumes
- other chemicals
Common symptoms of an allergic reaction
Diagnosing an allergic reaction can prove difficult as most symptoms appear as a normal childhood illness. Here are some common symptoms of allergies appearing in children:
- Difficulty breathing
- Tight throat
- Runny nose
- Itchy, watery or swollen eyes
- Skin rashes
- Red spots
- Atopic dermatitis
- Stomach upset
- Light headed, dizzy or fainting
An allergic reactions happen variably after contact with an allergen. Immediately, within minutes or even a couple of hours after contact are all possibilities. The reaction may be mild and only involve symptoms like hives on the skin. More severe reactions could involve swelling, runny eyes and difficulty breathing.
Allergic reactions vary from child to child. Often a child may have a different allergic reaction at different times. It’s important to quickly identify and treat all allergic reactions.
How to tell the difference between an allergy and a cold
The symptoms of many allergies appear like cold symptoms, making them more difficult for a parent to correctly diagnose. The following questions may help you in knowing if your child may be suffering from certain common allergies:
- Does your child always seem to have cold symptoms that last long past the usual period of a 7 to 10 days?
- Is their nose continually runny or blocked?
- Does your child seem to sneeze a lot?
- Is the mucus from their nose clear and thin (not thick and yellow)?
- Do they constantly wiggle their nose, wipe it or push it up?
- Are their eyes red, watery and itchy?
- Does the skin under their eyes appear blue or purple?
- Do they breathe mostly through their mouth?
- Do they suffer from a dry, persistent cough?
- Does your child have a skin irritation or an itchy red rash?
If you ticked off more than one, your child may be experiencing an allergic reaction to something they have come in contact with.
What to do if you think your child is having an allergic reaction
If your child has a sudden, severe reaction of any type, contact emergency services immediately. Every second counts during a serious allergic reaction.
If the symptoms are mild, make an appointment with your doctor.
In either case, make note of the following to help the medical professional correctly diagnose and treat the problem:
- All the symptoms in as much detail as possible
- The frequency – how often the reaction happens and when
- The reaction time – if you know or suspect the cause
- If any family members have been diagnosed with allergies
Your doctor may refer you to an allergist who conduct skin tests or order blood work.
Allergies can be treated in a multitude of ways from removing the allergen altogether to antihistamines, nasal sprays and allergy shots for older children.
Don’t give your child over-the-counter allergy medicine without consulting your doctor.
Can I prevent my child from getting allergies?
The short answer is no. It seems to be the luck of the draw, although children who come from a family with allergies appear more prone to develop them.
You can, however, greatly reduce the frequency or severity of certain allergy symptom by taking action to reduce your child’s exposure to their known allergens. Keep reactive foods out of reach or even out of the house altogether and make sure your child’s room is free from mould and dust mites with thorough cleaning. And if your pet is the cause of allergic reactions, sadly you may need to find them a new home.
Petit’s approach to your child’s health
At Petit early Learning Journey we take your child’s health very seriously. Our environment is maintained to an extremely high standard and every child’s needs are taken into consideration.
Our children’s meals are prepared daily by our on-site chef from fresh, healthy ingredients. We adjust meals based on allergies, food intolerance and other special dietary requirements.
We want to make life simple for you so the experience for you and your child is a relaxed, happy and healthy one.
Book a tour today. We’d love to show you through our amazing centre and introduce you to our team. You’ll soon know if Petit is the right choice for you and your family.