Over the last twenty years or so incidents of childhood allergies have increased significantly. We now have much higher rates of children presented to their Doctors by parents suffering with episodes of skin irritation, itching, wheezing and other breathing problems. What is an allergy and what can we do to protect our children?
An allergy is a term used to describe the response our immune system has to something which it finds challenging or which over-sensitises it.
Common symptoms of an allergy might include:
- Sore skin
- Runny nose
- Excessive sneezing
- Red or irritated eyes
- Coughing and irritated throat
- Upset stomach or stomach cramping
Your child might have one or more of these symptoms if they inhale allergens which are airborne or ingest mouthfuls of food that contain something they are sensitised to. Common food allergies found in babies and toddlers include wheat and gluten, dairy and nuts. Other allergies that are prevalent are things like pollen (which causes hay fever) and dust or dust mites.
Report on nut allergies and breast feeding
Interestingly, a report which you can read here published just this week seems to controversially claim that children who were exclusively breast fed for the first six months of their life were at a greater risk of developing a nut allergy than those that were fed with a combination of both breast and bottle.
A large study of fifteen thousand questionnaires was sent out to parents in Australia who had children of nursery school age. The researchers found that it was one and a half times more likely that children who had only been breast fed would develop a nut allergy. However, two eminent Pediatric Doctors have argued that the research and conclusions were flawed and that if parents were in any doubt at all about their child’s health the first port of call they should make with their Doctor. They also argued that the benefits of breast feeding your child far outweighed any negatives.
Coping with allergies
Some children will have allergies that trouble them from time to time but cause little or no distress. A simple dose of an antihistamine designed for kids or a slathering of hydrocortisone cream will help. However, for some, allergies can prove life restricting and make every day activities a nightmare, not just for them, but for their anxious parents who want them to live as normal a life as possible. There are a few things you can do to help minimize problems:
Cleaning: It’s important to remember to be clean and hygienic, but not overly so. However, if your child is reactive to things like house dust or dust mites there are simple steps you can take to help. Investing in a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA Filter is one.
These rid carpets and furnishings of these pesky little blighters and when used regularly can help aid better breathing and cut down on itching. There are special pillow slips and mattress covers you can buy that will also aid these sorts of problems. A great list of the best tried and tested brands can be found here.
Keeping your child clean is important, but choosing the right products to wash them with can be problematic. Many soaps and detergents contain a product called SLS (Sodium Laureth/Lauryl Sulphate) which can be potentially very irritating to sensitive skins. Looking around for something that is free of this ingredient is a start. An all natural cosmetic product that’s safe for everyone in the family to use would be an ideal choice.
Eating: It makes sense to study all your food labels very carefully. Foods that look innocent enough can harbor the allergens that set your children’s reactions off. For instance, if your child is allergic to eggs then check the Mayonnaise jar in the fridge to make sure it doesn’t contain any form of eggs in it. If your child has a problem with wheat, check the labels on any packets of ready made sauces in your cupboards. Very often wheat will be included on the ingredient list.
Make your child aware of the signs of a reaction starting and also of any adults that are around. If they have any medications (for instance ones that stop anaphylactic shock) make sure they are with the child at all times.
If your child is of school age, make sure they are aware of the fact they shouldn’t swap food with their friends. Eating the food that you have made is one of the only ways to keep them safe at school.
At play: Children want to be out and about, especially in the summer months when the weather is better. However, high pollen levels can sometimes put paid to that, but there are steps you can take to help out. In hot weather, it can be helpful to plan outings to places that are near lakes or water. The closer you are to water the less chance there is of being attacked by pollen. If your child wants to be involved in sporting activities, try and plan ones such as swimming, or things like gymnastics or martial arts which take place indoors.
The most important thing to try and remember is that although allergies can be very distressing, they don’t have to take over the life of your child and you certainly don’t have to rush out and get extensive family health insurance. Allergies also don’t have to take over the life of you as a worried parent, especially if you plan a little and take the advice of your healthcare professionals including.
How do you combat allergies in your household?
Source: With thanks to Imogen Vernon for writing this article on behalf of ivegotkids.com
Special thanks to: Rademenes777 (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons for the use of their image.