Allergies can strike children at any time. One minute, everything seems fine, the next they are complaining about a runny nose or itchy eyes.
For parents, the sudden realization that their child has a health problem can be unnerving. But, fortunately, there are things you can do.
This post explores everything you need to know about allergens in children. Read on to learn more.
What Are Allergies?
Essentially, an allergy is any condition involving an unwanted immune reaction to a stimulus that isn’t otherwise harmful. In the case of allergies, immune systems get confused and begin attacking the body’s tissue by mistake, leading to redness, swelling, itchiness, and a host of other unpleasant symptoms.
Allergens can arise from multiple sources inside and outside of the home. The most common causes of allergens are things like house dust mites, pets, and pollen, but they can also come from food and venom.
Some allergies are more serious than others. Mild conditions can lead to watery eyes, coughing, wheezing, hives, rashes, and swelling of the face. More severe allergies can lead to loss of consciousness, shock, drop in blood pressure and difficulty breathing. If you notice any serious symptoms, call emergency medical services to come to your home immediately.
What Causes Allergies In Children?
The exact cause of allergies in children is not fully understood, but it is believed that genetics and environmental factors play a role. Some children may inherit a tendency to develop allergies from their parents or relatives, but lifestyle is likely the dominant cause today.
Researchers have identified several factors with a high correlation with allergies. These include a family history (suggesting genetics or similar environment), low birth weight or being born prematurely, and exposure to cow’s milk or other solid foods before six months of age. Tobacco smoking may also play a role in some cases.
What Treatments Are Available For Allergies?
Currently, there are dozens of allergy treatments on the market with varying formulations. However, they all fall into a small number of groups to make them easier to identify.
Antihistamines are drugs that block the effects of histamine, a chemical released by the immune system during an allergic reaction. They help reduce itching, sneezing, runny nose, and watery eyes.
Immunotherapy is another more advanced treatment. The aim here is to train the immune system to accept negative stimuli in the environment, such as pollen, over time, preventing flare-ups in the future.
Your doctor may also recommend corticosteroids. These drugs help reduce inflammation and swelling in the airways and skin and are taken orally or as nasal sprays and creams. However, you can only use them for short-term relief. They are not long-term medications.
Another drug class are leukotriene modifiers. These work similarly to antihistamines and block the effects of leukotrienes, another chemical released by the immune system during an allergic reaction.
Lastly, medics might recommend decongestants. These shrink the swollen blood vessels in the nose that can make breathing difficult, helping to clear the sinuses and reduce distress.