Allergies in Childhood

Allergies happen when your child’s immune system reacts to an allergen in the environment. It might be something like food, dust, mites, or pollen. Allergens cause your child’s immune system to release histamine and other substances into his body, this leads to allergy symptoms. Children who have family members with allergies or allergy problems like asthma, eczema, and hay fever are at increased risk of also developing allergies.

An immediate allergic reaction usually happens within minutes or up to 1-2 hours after your child comes into contact with or eats the substance that he is allergic to.

A delayed allergic reaction usually happens many hours after exposure. It can happen up to several days after your child comes into contact with the substance he is allergic to.

If your child is having a moderate allergic reaction, his symptoms might include:

  • rash, hives or welts
  • swelling of the face, eyes, or lips
  • tingling or itchy mouth
  • eczema, hay fever, or asthma
  • diarrhea, stomach pain, or vomiting.

If your child has diarrhea, stomach pain, or vomiting after an insect sting, it means he is having a severe allergic reaction.

A severe allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis. Symptoms might include:

  • difficult or noisy breathing
  • tongue and throat swelling or tightness
  • difficulty talking or a hoarse voice
  • a wheeze or persistent cough
  • persistent dizziness or fainting
  • paleness and floppiness
  • diarrhea, stomach pain
  • vomiting after an insect sting.

Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction and needs urgent medical attention. If your child is having an anaphylactic reaction, first lay him flat. Do not let him stand or walk around. Next use an adrenaline auto-injector if one is available. Then call an ambulance.

If you think your child might have allergies, getting a proper assessment is important. To start this process, you can talk to your doctor, who might refer you to an allergy or immunology specialist.

The way you treat an allergic reaction depends on how severe the reaction is. Giving your child a dose of antihistamine is appropriate if your child is having a moderate allergic reaction, including a skin rash, tingling mouth, or swelling.

Depending on the allergic reaction your child has, he might need other treatments. For example:

  • If your child has eczema, he might need corticosteroid ointments.
  • If your child has hay fever, he might need corticosteroid nose sprays.
  • If your child has asthma, he might need an inhaler.
  • If your child has a food or insect sting allergy, it is especially important to maintain superb control of his asthma. If your child has a severe asthma attack, call an ambulance immediately.

Doctors often prescribe children at significant risk of anaphylaxis adrenaline auto-injectors. If they prescribe your child an adrenaline auto-injector, both you and your child must learn how and when to use it. Your child’s adrenaline auto-injector should be easy to reach at all times. You can also teach others, family, friends, teachers, and carers how to use it.