Is My Child Allergic? 4 Common Allergy Triggers in Preschoolers and What to Do About Them
You are euphoric, and for good reason. You have just given birth to a beautiful, healthy baby. Everything is going smoothly: the newborn’s lusty cries are proof of a good set of lungs; she demonstrates a voracious appetite that is easily satisfied by breastfeeding; and the infant exhibits the ability to see, hear, and respond to touch. When you bring your bundle of joy home, there are only minor glitches in adapting to life as a family with a newborn.
However, even the healthiest and most content babies can develop unpleasant symptoms. A rash may appear over large areas. The infant’s tummy may often seem upset. Older babies might develop runny noses, coughs, and ear infections. While these symptoms often turn out to not be a cause for concern, the little one’s doctor may decide that Baby is an allergy sufferer.
It is possible for anyone to have allergic reactions, and they are more prevalent if one or more family members have allergies. While there are many culprits that can trigger a reaction, allergies fall into four basic categories.
Tree, grass, and other plant pollen are common triggers. Some individuals react to insect bites and bee stings. Children over 1 year old are more likely to experience nasal and respiratory symptoms than their younger counterparts. In addition, some allergic children go on to develop asthma between ages 3 and 5.
Youngsters with plant allergies exhibit runny noses, red, watery eyes that itch and may have a discharge, sneezing, ear discomfort, and sometimes coughing. As little ones’ eustachian tubes (that connect the ears to the nose) are small, nasal congestion can block them, sometimes resulting in inflammation and ear infections. If they are frequent enough, the youngster’s ability to hear (and learn to speak) might be affected. It’s important to visit an allergist and possibly an ear, nose, and throat specialist for diagnosis and treatment.
Insect bites and bee stings cause only temporary discomfort for most people. However, if someone is allergic to them, symptoms range from a painful rash to life-threatening anaphylactic shock. (Breathing becomes difficult, blood pressure falls drastically, and the sufferer may go into shock.) Many children (and adults) are prescribed epinephrine in auto-injector form to ward off dangerous symptoms.
Fido and Kitty may be integral parts of the family, but their hair is a common allergen. Mold and dust mites are two other culprits. Unlike outdoor allergens, these triggers do not disappear when the seasons change.
If the thought of parting with the family pet is too painful to contemplate, allergy medications might be able to alleviate symptoms in older babies and children. Frequently vacuuming and cleaning floors and furniture may keep dander at bay. If space and weather permit, pets can be kept in a separate part of the house or outside.
When it comes to dust mites and mold, the key is cleanliness. Bedding should be washed often, and mattress and pillow covers are wise investments. Carpets and area rugs are dust magnets, so frequent cleaning is a must. Better yet, remove them and go for the natural floor look.
Symptoms of indoor allergies are similar to those of the outdoor variety. An allergist can pinpoint which culprits are causing the sniffles, sneezes, coughs, and itchy eyes.
Car exhaust, cigarette smoke, perfume, paint, insect repellant, soap, and even sunscreen can irritate a baby’s and older child’s nasal and bronchial passages and skin. Preventing symptoms may involve experimentation to determine which personal products are worry-free. If eyes tear up and turn red, avoid applying sunscreen and soap (even hypoallergenic ones) to the face.
Your home should be smoke-free; not only will every member of the family breathe more easily, but you’ll also avoid the pitfalls of second-hand smoke. It is not possible to completely steer clear of outdoor allergens like car exhaust. If reactions are severe or do not respond to treatment, a mask might be what the doctor ordered.
Food allergies are most common in babies over six months old; it is at this age that many are introduced to solid food. However, even infants who drink only their mother’s milk may have a reaction. If Baby develops a tummy ache or a rash, an allergy test can identify the problem foods. If Mommy avoids them, her baby’s symptoms disappear.
As infants grow and meet grownup food for the first time, allergic reactions can appear. The most likely culprits are milk and peanuts; others include wheat, tree nuts, fish, eggs, and soy. Since the potential for serious reactions is present, youngsters who are allergic to one or more foods are prescribed epinephrine. Children may retain fish, peanut, and tree nut allergies throughout their lives. Reactions to the other allergens are more likely to disappear by age 5.
Even though avoiding food allergens is recommended, there is an interesting phenomenon. In the country of Israel, where a peanut-butter-flavored snack is popular, young children have a much lower incidence of peanut allergy than Jewish children in England and the United States. A British researcher conducted an intensive study and the results bear fruit: babies at high risk for peanut allergies who were fed peanut butter were 80 percent less likely to become allergic by their fifth birthday. However, parents should not rush out to buy peanut butter and feed susceptible babies at home–there is the risk of a severe reaction. Such an experiment should only take place under the supervision of a physician.
Being aware of environmental and dietary allergies can help youngsters, and those who care for them, feel their best. It only takes a few steps to ensure a symptom-free and enjoyable childhood.