Over 50 million people experience some form of allergies in the United States according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). From food allergies to those that are seasonal, allergies can affect children from infancy and beyond. Allergies can develop at any age, but most commonly begin between one and two years of age when it comes to reactions to adverse foods in their system. For seasonal allergies, children generally begin to develop them between the ages of two and five years old with the most outward symptoms showing around 10 years old.
Food allergies affect over 10% of Americans.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, “allergies are one the most common health issues that affect children every year.” Allergies are one of the leading causes of chronic illness for both children and adults. About 7% of children under the age of 18 experience food allergies each year.
The eight most common types of food allergies include:
- Tree nuts
Out of the top eight allergens, milk, eggs and peanuts are the most commonly seen allergens affecting children. Another less common, but present allergy in children is citrus fruits. Once your child is diagnosed with a food allergy, it is important to take note of how that particular food can be found in various other food forms, like cereals, snack foods and baked goods. It is important to thoroughly read the packaging before adding any new food staples to your child’s diet to ensure they are free from their specific allergens. In general, children tend to grow out of food allergies as they grow. Factors to consider include what type of allergy they have and the severity of their reaction to said allergy. Commonly, about 80% of children outgrow allergies to milk and wheat products while over 66% outgrow their egg allergy.
What are the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction?
The severity of an allergic reaction will range from person to person and may even change over time for each individual. In an allergic reaction, your body recognizes the allergen as a foreign substance in your body that it needs to combat. It then goes into fight mode against, what it considers, a foreign attacker.
The most common symptoms of allergic reaction include:
- Runny nose
- Skin rash
- Itchy throat
- Red, swollen and/or itchy eyes
- Complaint of itchy inner ear
- Shortness of breath or rapid breathing
- Stomach aches
- Irregular bowel movements or chronic diarrhea
It’s important to note that if you notice cold-like symptoms that do not go away on their own within a few weeks, you should talk with your child’s pediatrician about the possibility of them being affected by allergies.
Depending on the severity of your child’s reaction to an allergy, it can interfere and affect daily life by:
- Interrupting sleep cycles.
- Creating an imbalance to their daily diet.
- Affecting grades and attendance if it causes them to miss school due to chronic or severe symptoms.
- Becoming a hindrance to daily basic life tasks.
Seek emergency help immediately if your child experiences symptoms like:
- Chest pain
- Loss of consciousness
- Trouble breathing
- A weak pulse
- Trouble swallowing
- Swelling of the lips, throat or tongue
Allergy diagnosis will help manage symptoms.
There are a variety of ways to test for food allergies in children and adults. From a skin prick test to a food elimination diet, testing is available for your children. Note that skin testing normally does not happen for children under the age of 6 months as their immune system is still developing in the early months of their infancy.
Here are the most common allergy tests.
- Skin Prick Test: During this test, a small amount of allergens are placed on your child’s skin. The skin is then pricked in the spots where the allergens were placed so that a small amount may enter their body. A positive result equates to a swollen, red bump, often encompassed by a ring, in the area in which they were pricked. This is the most common type of testing.
- Food Elimination Diet: This diet essentially eliminates the foods that are believed to be causing allergic reactions. The suspected foods are removed from a child’s diet, entirely, for two to three weeks. If symptoms disappear, the allergen in question is thought to be the cause of their reactions. The food, depending on the severity of reaction, can slowly be reintroduced to your child’s diet to evaluate tolerance.
- Blood Testing: Through basic blood tests, allergists and doctors can check for various antibodies in your child’s system. The higher the amount of antibodies to a specific allergen, the more likely it is that they are experiencing adverse reactions to said allergen.
- Intradermal Test: During this test, a small amount of the suspected allergen is injected into your child’s arm via a standard needle. The injection site is then checked after 15-20 minutes to check for a reaction.
- Patch Test: Similar to the prick test, sans needles, this test uses patches of different allergens that are applied directly to your child’s skin. The patches are adhered to your child’s arms or back and stay in place for 48 hours. After the allotted time frame, your allergist will remove the patches to check for adverse reactions.
Indoor and outdoor allergies affect millions of children every year.
Aside from the effect of food allergies on children, indoor and outdoor allergies are also extremely common in children. From pet dander, dust and mites to seasonal allergies like pollen and ragweed, seasonal allergies affect millions of children each year. Seasonal allergies are exactly as they are described and occur during specific seasons, most commonly during the spring and summer when flowers are blooming and trees are sprouting. Seasonal allergies can occur year around for some individuals. Indoor allergies can be mitigated by keeping your child away from pets, washing linens and bedding in hot water on a weekly basis and vacuuming floors regularly to remove extra dust and dander.
Allergy treatment is available.
Depending on the symptoms and severity of allergic reactions, there are various ways to treat allergy symptoms in children.It is best to speak with your child’s pediatrician to determine the best treatment method for their individual case as both over the counter and prescription options are available.