COLUMBIA, Tenn. — According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, more than 50 million Americans suffer from some kind of allergy. For most, allergies begin in infancy or childhood.
While there are a variety of allergies that can affect children, the most common are seasonal allergies, food allergies, and allergic reactions to chemicals or substances. Seasonal allergies are generally caused by plant pollens from trees, grass and flowers. Food allergies my include reactions to gluten, peanuts and food additives such as preservatives and dyes. Chemical-based irritants may include laundry detergent, cleaning solutions or clothing dye. Additional substances commonly causing reactions are pet dander and venom from insects or spiders.
“Allergies in children may vary greatly,” says Dr. Bill See, a Family Health Group pediatrician in Lewisburg. “Some allergies are mild and easily treated. For example, seasonal allergies may be controlled by taking over-the-counter products such as antihistamines or decongestants. Other allergies, especially those to foods and insect stings, can cause severe reactions that may result in rapid swelling of the airways requiring emergency treatment.”
Dr. See recommends that if a child is experiencing respiratory irritation, a rash or frequent headaches to consult a pediatrician or otolaryngologist. A physician will be able to help determine the cause of the allergy. In some cases, a physician may begin by recommending removing and then reintroducing possible irritants that would trigger the allergy to help determine the cause and a course of treatment. In more severe cases, a physician may order a more extensive assessment such as blood tests to identify antibodies to specific antigens or skin testing in which the skin is exposed to small amounts of various substances to observe reactions over time.
“If a child or adult ever experiences difficult breathing, it is imperative to call 9-1-1 immediately. Some allergies can be so severe that the airway will close in a matter of minutes. Do not try to drive to the emergency department in these cases. Ambulances are equipped with medications such as epinephrine that can help to calm the reaction and keep the airway from closing or first responders may also be able to intubate the patient before the airway completely closes,” said Dr. See.
According to Dr. See, most allergies are treatable and there are options to provide relief to those who suffer. To learn more about children’s allergies, contact your physician.