As planting season rolls in, flowers perk up, grass regains its lush green demeanor, and pollen attaches itself to the warm breeze while millions of Americans across the country begin their seasonal sniffles. More than 50 million Americans experience some form of allergy each year. Spring is a well-known allergy season but several kinds of allergies pester people year-round as well.
Allergies can affect children and toddlers as well as adults. Parents are often unsure how to proceed and identify the root cause of their child’s allergy symptoms. Often confused for a common cold or runny nose, allergies can be persistent, stubborn, and relentless.
Learning about your child’s allergies early will help you seek remedies, understand the best therapeutics, and be well-prepared. So how do you know when your child might suffer from allergies?
What Are Allergies and Why Do Some Kids Have Them?
One way to think about it is that allergies occur when your immune system misreads something as harmful when it isn’t. People who have an allergy to peanuts, for example, will experience an adverse reaction when their body comes into contact with these harmless nuts because their bodies think they’ve encountered something deadly and must mount a response.
Experts have yet to precisely pinpoint the cause of certain allergies in some people and why some will have a reaction and others won’t. A family history of allergies tends to be a contributing factor.
Anatomy of an Allergic Reaction
An allergic reaction is a complex chain of events and is also known as a hypersensitivity disorder. It is a reaction that your body mounts to a substance that it deems dangerous. The immune system protects us from bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens that roam around us every single day.
If your child has a pollen allergy, for example, their body reads pollen as a dangerous invader. The immune system orchestrates a response that produces antibodies called Immunoglobulin E. These antibodies (or defenders) travel to cells and release chemicals that manifest as an allergic reaction. This can produce symptoms in the upper respiratory system, the stomach lining, or the skin.
Common allergens include:
- Dust mites
- Pet dander
- Bee venom
Common Symptoms of Allergies and Allergic Reactions
Whether they are seasonal allergies or food allergies, the body produces specific reactions that can be mild to severe. In children, these symptoms can be worrisome for parents. If a child feels fine but exhibits a runny nose and itchy eyes, this might be a reaction to some kind of allergen.
Reactions to pollen: For allergic reactions triggered by seasonal effectors like pollen, you can expect to see a congested nose, itchy eyes, a runny nose, swollen eyes, and/or persistent cough.
Reactions to food allergies: A food allergy can look a little bit different. If your child ingests a food they are allergic to, they might experience vomiting, swelling of the tongue, swelling in the lips, face, and throat.
Reactions to insect bites or stings: When a child is stung by a bee or another type of insect, they may experience an adverse reaction as well. This can manifest as wheezing, lots of swelling on the bite site, dizziness, or shortness of breath.
When Do Kids Develop Allergies?
Allergies can emerge at any age. In fact, allergies can appear for the first time in adulthood or seemingly out of nowhere. And yet, if allergies are present in childhood, identifying them early can make treating them much easier.
If allergy symptoms are present and persistent in your child, you might notice that they begin to have a detrimental effect on their quality of life. They interfere with your child’s:
- Sleep pattern
- Appetite and diet
- Overall energy levels
- School attendance
- Focus and school performance
What Are Allergy Tests and How Do You Know to Get Your Child Tested?
Depending on your child’s symptoms and suspected allergies, your physician might conduct several different types of allergy tests. There are both skin tests and food allergies.
Skin allergy tests
This test involves the nurse or physician using a section of skin (usually the forearm or back) to test out reaction to an allergen. This test is designed to identify and assess environmental and seasonal allergies. A reaction is usually detected within a few minutes, as wheals (or small bumps) appear on the skin. Preliminary skin tests are also done to gauge the probability of a food allergy. If they are positive, then there are additional tests to confirm this.
Food allergy tests
Blood tests can be a common method to test for food allergies. These tests are reliable and safe. They test the blood for the IgE antibodies to specific foods. If the blood sample presents a considerable amount of antibodies, it may indicate a food allergy or sensitivity.
So What Are the Signs to Get My Child Tested for Allergies?
If you have noticed some of these symptoms and seen that they linger or return, it may be time to seek an allergy test. Here’s what to look for:
- Runny nose and itchy eyes. Your child otherwise feels ok but is constantly fighting a runny and itchy nose with clear discharge. If your child continues to rub their face, it is another indication they are experiencing an itchy nose.
- A parent with a history of allergies. When a parent has allergies, the child has a 50% chance of having them as well. So if they run in the family, consider a test!
- Rash or skin issues. An ingredient in your child’s food can trigger a skin rash. If you see persistent rashes, it may be your child has an allergy to something.
- Sneezing and coughing. If it’s an environmental factor, your child might experience persistent and stubborn sneezing and coughing.
If your child experiences a severe reaction, seek medical attention right away. Some food allergies, for example, can produce severe reactions that cause the tongue or throat to swell up.
Get Your Child an Allergy Test and Learn More About
As a pediatric clinic, our interest lies in finding out underlying causes to better treat, diagnose, and prevent complications. If you suspect your child may suffer from seasonal allergies or food allergies, come by Peds on Demand and learn more about allergy testing.
Want to learn more about allergy testing for your children? Call us today at Pedsiatrics on Demand.