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    Allergies (Child)

    Overview
    Causes
    Symptoms
    Risk Factors

    Prevention
    When To Seek Help
    Treatment Options
    Where to Seek Treatment

    Singapore General Hospital
    Contributed by Dept of Neonatal & Developmental Medicine

    Overview

    Allergies are some of the most common health problems. Millions of people worldwide are affected by asthma, allergic rhinitis, atopic dermatitis and other allergy-related conditions. Although allergies are more common in children, the onset or recurrence of allergies can take place at any age.


    Causes

    What causes allergies is not exactly known. Allergies tend to run in families so if either parent has an allergy, the child has a higher chance of getting allergies. However, some children have allergies even if no one in the family does. There is usually a history of contact with an allergen, which is a substance that can be eaten, inhaled, injected or come into contact with the skin. Common allergens include peanuts, pollen, medicines, insect stings and animal dander.


    Symptoms

    Most allergic reactions are easily controlled. But some can lead to an anaphylactic reaction, which is a serious allergic reaction that progresses rapidly and can be fatal. Symptoms may include a combination of rashes, shortness of breath, chest pain or tightness, weak pulse, dizziness, swelling of the eyes, lips or tongue, difficulty swallowing, abdominal cramps or vomiting. An anaphylactic reaction is an emergency, which needs immediate medical attention.

    Listed below are some common allergies, their symptoms and triggers. Consult your doctor if your child displays any of these symptoms.

    Asthma
    Children with asthma often have cough, tight chest or difficulty breathing. These signs are worse in the morning or at night and could also be due to exercise or physical activity.

    Common triggers include viral infections, cigarette smoke, house dust mites, animal fur, weather changes and even stress.

    Allergic Rhinitis
    Allergic rhinitis is usually due to inhaling house dust mites, mould and animal dander. The condition can be frustrating to a child as he or she will sneeze often and have an itchy and runny nose, which can get stuffy. The child may start to breathe through the mouth. Often the child also has watery and itchy eyes, which may become red and swollen.

    Eczema
    In infants, eczema tends to occur on the cheeks, behind the ears and on the thighs. As the child grows, these dry, itchy and red patches are often found in the folds of the neck, arms and legs. Eczema can be worsened by food allergies or contact with allergens such as house dust mites and animal fur.

    Food allergies
    These can be mild or serious enough to cause an anaphylactic reaction. Common triggers include peanuts, eggs, wheat, soy and shellfish.

    Hives
    Hives are commonly caused by food allergies, medicines and viral infections. These raised, red and itchy skin patches look like mosquito bites and can be found on different parts of the body. They usually appear in crops and do not stay at the same spot for more than a few hours.

    Contact dermatitis
    Unlike hives, the red itchy patches are confined to areas which have come into direct contact with the allergen, which may include chemicals found in perfumes, cosmetics, detergents or plant substances such as poison ivy. If severe, the rashes may even blister.


    Risk Factors

    Children have a higher risk of developing allergies than adults, although some children outgrow their allergies as they get older. A family history of allergies and having asthma also increase the child’s risk of allergies.

    Primary risk factors:
    Allergies are hereditary and passed from parents to children. So a child with at least one parent with allergies is likely to develop allergies. A child with asthma is also more likely to develop other allergies.

    Secondary risk factors:
    Exposure to allergens when the body’s immune system is weak, such as after a viral infection, also seems to increase the risk of allergies.


    Prevention

    Prevention of allergies depends on the type of allergy you have. Once you know what triggers your allergic reaction, you should do your best to avoid those triggers. Common triggers include viral infections, cigarette smoke, house dust mites, animal fur, weather changes and even stress.


    When To Seek Help

    Seek medication attention if your symptoms get worse over a few days, or if they do not improve with treatment. You should see a doctor at once if you suddenly develop severe or rapidly worsening symptoms such as:

    - swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat
    - wheezing, chest tightness, loud breathing, or trouble breathing
    - sweating, nausea, or vomiting
    - widespread rash


    Treatment Options

    The first and most important step in treatment is to identify and avoid your allergy triggers. Your doctor may also prescribe allergy medications to reduce your symptoms. The medication depends on the type of allergy and can be over-the-counter or prescription drugs in the form of oral medications, nasal sprays or eye drops.

    In severe allergies, your doctor may suggest allergy shots. Also called immunotherapy, this treatment involves a series of injections of purified allergen extracts, given usually over a period of a few years.

    Need indepth information ?

    Access our Conditions & Treatments sections for related topics on Allergic Rhinitis

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