Just like adults, babies and young children can suffer from allergies. Simply avoiding allergy triggers, called allergens, can keep most childhood allergies under control. But some allergies, particularly food allergies, can be serious and require medical attention.
In a child with allergies, the immune system identifies a normally harmless substance, such as pollen, as an invader and attacks it. This immune response causes allergy symptoms. Common allergies include:
Hay Fever Triggers
One of the most common childhood allergies is allergic rhinitis, or hay fever. Airborne particles such as pollen, mold, pet dander, and dust trigger hay fever symptoms, including:
- Runny nose
- Itchy eyes and throat
According to Cristina Cotronei-Cascardo, M.D., an allergist-immunologist and internist on staff at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, you can reduce your child’s exposure to common triggers and minimize symptoms if you:
- Wash bedding in hot water at least once a week
- Use a dehumidifier to keep your home’s humidity below 50 percent
- Remove carpet from baby’s room
- Quit smoking, since secondhand smoke increases a child’s risk of developing allergies
In addition, if you have a furry pet, you should keep it out of your baby’s room and vacuum frequently. “But talk to your doctor about what’s best for your child,” Dr. Cotronei-Cascardo says. “Some new research suggests that sometimes children who are around dogs and cats early in life are less likely to develop allergies.”
Avoiding Food Allergies
About 6 percent of children suffer from food allergies. Milk, eggs and peanuts are the most common troublemakers. Most children outgrow milk and egg allergies, and about 20 percent outgrow a peanut allergy, which was thought to be a lifetime allergy.
Signs of a food allergy include:
- Swollen tongue and throat Difficulty breathing
But the most serious sign is a sudden drop in blood pressure and loss of consciousness. This is a rare but life-threatening reaction called anaphylactic shock.
“Eliminating troublesome foods from your child’s diet can prevent an allergic reaction, but you also should follow a few extra steps as an added precaution,” Dr. Cotronei-Cascardo says. “For example, always check food labels carefully for the presence of peanut products. Also, don’t give your child chocolate candies unless you’re positive that they don’t contain or haven’t been contaminated with peanuts.”
Your child’s doctor may prescribe medicines called epinephrine and liquid dephenhydramine for emergencies. Carry these with you at all times in case of accidental exposure.
If you only want what’s best for your child, Children’s Hospital of Michigan is where you want them to be. For an appointment, call 313-745-KIDS (5437) or 888-DMC-2500.