As a parent, you are constantly worried about your child’s health and well-being. Allergies developed in infancy or childhood can be a big concern as it can affect your child’s sleep patterns and his ability to play and function in school.
The United States’ centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that the number of skin and food allergies in children jumped between 1997 and 2011. But the rate of respiratory allergies stayed constant during the same period.
Younger children are more likely to experience skin symptoms while older ones may face more breathing problems, according to the CDC data.
The first signs
If your child’s nose is always runny, or his eyes are itchy, red or swollen for longer than a year, they may possibly have an allergy.
Ask him if his mouth or throat itches, and look out for ear scratching, too. According to experts, these may be symptoms of allergy, most likely from hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, which is common among children. Also, keep an eye on when these signs occur – do they appear at the period yearly?
Check his skin for rash, eczema or hives for skin symptoms. On top of that, take note if he is wheezing or having tummy problems. These could be signs of an allergy as well.
Testing for allergies
A trip to the clinic helps determine if your child’s symptoms are indicative of an allergic reaction.
To confirm if the child is allergic to a certain type of food, the doctor will conduct a scratch test – scratching the skin with a small amount of liquid extract of the allergen. The appearance of reddish spots after about 15 minutes usually signifies an allergy.
If the child is allergic to more than one substance, or if it is unclear what allergens are causing the reaction, the doctor will conduct the skin test for different substances at the same time.
However, even when the test shows a positive result, it does not completely confirm that the person is allergic to that particular food. More tests are required for that such as a blood test.
The small blood sample will be analysed in a laboratory, which checks it for IgE antibodies (produced when your immune system overreacts to an allergen) to certain foods. If there is a sufficient amount of IgE antibodies to that food, then it is highly likely that your child is allergic to it.
However, if there are no clear results from the tests, the doctor may put your child through a food challenge – where your child is given increasing amounts of the potential allergen to eat while being monitored by the doctor for any symptoms.
Tips for parents to cope with stress
Having a child with allergies can cause a lot of stress. Monitoring their diet, scheduling in doctor’s appointments and ensuring their general well-being can put a strain on your day-to-day life.
While making sure your child is healthy is of the utmost importance, don’t let this control every aspect of your life as it can transfer the stress you feel to your child.