Allergy Symptoms in Kids: What To Look For
Allergies affect millions of children every year. Here, we examine some of the most common allergy symptoms in kids, including what to look for.
For many people, allergies are simply anaccepted way of life. They know that a certain time of year means a runny nose,sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes. But not all allergies are seasonal.
Allergies are one of the most common chronicconditions, affecting millions annually. For some, allergies are frequent andinescapable. For others, they only pop up with exposure to certain allergytriggers.
Children are just as susceptible to allergies as adults; some are even more hypersensitive since their bodies are still working to build immune defenses.
In this article, we explore some of the most common allergy symptoms in kids and give you advice on some things to look for before the sniffles and sneezing start.
What Are Allergies?
Many people have experienced the stress of their child's experiencing allergies. While it’s true that most people have endless bouts of coughing and sneezing when they think of allergies, those symptoms can be the tip of the allergy iceberg.
Allergies represent a reaction of the body’s immune system. The human body is hardwired to protect and defend itself from harmful foreign bodies, like bacteria or viruses. A child’s immune system is no different.
A Quick Look at the Immune System
The immune system plays an integral role in maintaining our health, comprising a host of organs and cells that work to protect our bodies against illness and disease. The immune system works around the clock, constantly scanning the body for toxins, viruses, bacteria, and more.
What Do Allergies Do to the Body?
Allergic Reactions and Allergens
While the immune system provides some much-needed protection against viruses and bacteria, it sometimes reacts to seemingly less serious things.
These could include pollen from trees and plants, dust, or mold. In a sense, your immune system is reacting to a false alarm.
So, an allergy occurs when the immune system perceives a certain substance as harmful and overreacts to it. Clinically, this is known as an allergic reaction. The irritants that cause this allergic reaction are known as allergens.
How Do Allergies Affect Children?
In most cases, allergens are completely harmless. However, the presence of allergies and allergy symptoms proves that the body perceives the allergens as harmful. A child’s immune system attacks allergens with antibodies.
These antibodies are known as immunoglobulins(IgE). Essentially, allergens stick to these antibodies, causing mast cells to release histamine and other chemicals to combat the allergen threat. It is this overreaction, or allergic reaction, that causes allergy symptoms.
Allergy Symptoms in Children
Allergy symptoms in children vary depending on the type of allergy trigger, duration of exposure, and sensitivity to the allergen.
Common allergy symptoms include:
- Stuffy nose (nasal congestion),itchy nose, ears, or roof of the mouth.
- Itchy and sore throat (trouble swallowing is a more severe symptom).
- Red, watery and itchy eyes.
- Dry, itchy, or red skin (e.g.,eczema or hives)
Asthma symptoms, such as shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing can also be exacerbated by allergies. Also, conditions like anaphylaxis arepotentially life-threatening allergic reactions requiring immediate emergencyattention. This can cause issues with breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, fainting, or worse.
What Are the Most CommonAllergies in Kids?
A child has a greater chance of developing allergies if they have those in their family with a history of allergies.Allergies can affect any child, regardless of family history or age.
Allergens and allergy triggers vary from child to child, as does the severity of allergy symptoms.
However, the most common allergies in kids can be broken into three groups: Food allergies, environmental allergies, and seasonal allergies.
Food allergies are very common in children.Essentially, food allergies are abnormal responses of the body to certain foods. According to John Hopkins Medicine, 90 percent of all food allergies in kids are caused by these eight foods:
- Tree nuts
Sometimes allergens are impossible to avoid.This is especially true when it comes to environmental allergies. Here are some of the most common environmental allergens that affect kids.
These tiny bugs are notorious for living in bedding, furniture, and carpets. They love living in the dust and fibers of warm, humid environments. Dust mite allergy is a reaction to dust mite droppings — gross.
Mold is another common culprit when it comes to environmental allergies. Mold is essentially small fungi (like penicillium)with small spores that float around, similar to pollen. It is mostly found in damp, indoor areas — like basements, bathrooms, or under kitchen sinks.
Dander from animals
Often, allergic reactions in kids result from exposure to pet dander. While the animal fur gets the bad rap, it is actually the secretion of proteins from the animal’s sweat glands causing the allergic reaction.
Other common environmental allergens
- Insect stings - Venom from insects like beesis a common allergen for many children
- Pests - Pests like cockroaches and mice arenotorious allergen triggers
- Contact allergies - Many children have allergies to latex, detergents, lotions, and more
- Irritants - Smoke, perfumes, cold air, and more.
Seasonal allergies are allergic reactions to plant and tree pollen in the air during the high-pollen season. Clinically, seasonal allergies are known as allergic rhinitis or hay fever.
Ironically, allergic rhinitis isn’t due to hay, nor does it induce a fever. It mostly affects regions in the sinus.Symptoms can worsen when pollen counts are high.
This condition is a chronic pediatric condition, affecting up to 40 percent of children. While many parents can manage their kid’s allergic rhinitis symptoms with simple home remedies and over-the-counter (OTC) medications, more severe cases do occur.
How Do You Diagnose Allergies in Kids?
- Blood test - Blood tests measure IgE antibodies to mark certain allergens. It is referred to as a radioallergosorbent test (RAST). It offers one of the most definitive immunology reports around.
- Skin test - This common allergy test detectsIgE antibodies to common allergens, such as pollen, food, and dander. These tests are administered intradermally by placing a small amount of allergen under the skin to test for allergic reactions.
- Challenge test - Under the direction of a healthcare provider, like an allergist, a small amount of allergen is given by mouth (or breathed in) to determine the severity of the reaction and side effects of certain allergens.
Allergy Treatments in Kids
Typically, allergies are treated in three ways:
- Avoidance may be as simple as staying indoors during high pollen count days or using dehumidifiers in damp areas of the house.
- Medication treatments, such as those for allergic rhinitis, may include antihistamines, nasal sprays, decongestants, inhalation steroids, and more.
- Immunotherapy includes more involved interventions like allergy shots or sublingual allergy tablets.
Can a Kid Grow Out of Allergies?
Yes, it is certainly possible for children to outgrow their allergies. However, naturally outgrowing an allergy does depend on the type of allergy and its overall severity.
It is not possible to control everything your child experiences. As a parent, monitoring your child for symptoms is more important.
If you’re concerned about the prevalence of allergies in your child, it's best to consult your pediatrician. They can offer insights into your child’s allergies and possible allergen triggers, perform tests, and offer advice on treatment plans.