Allergies and Children
Allergies are caused by an overreaction of the immune system in which the body responds to a substance that it believes is harmful by creating antibodies against it. This reaction does not happen the first time a person is exposed to a substance, but the next time the person is exposed, the body’s immune system releases chemicals, such as histamine, to protect itself from substances such as dust mites, pollen and even some foods. There are different kinds of allergies that affect different parts of the body. Allergic symptoms do not always require treatment unless the symptoms are severe, chronic or associated with other conditions like asthma or sinus infection.
Allergic rhinitis (Hay fever)
Allergic rhinitis, also known as “hay fever,” is an irritation and inflammation of the inside of the nose due to exposure to an allergic trigger that is usually inhaled. Some children experience allergic rhinitis all year round while others are affected only at certain times of the year. The most common triggers are trees, grasses, and weeds and these usually cause seasonal allergies. Mold spores, dust mites, animals and cockroaches can also cause allergies that occur year-round Common symptoms are watery eyes, sneezing, runny nose with constant sniffles, and itchy eyes/nose. Allergic rhinitis can contribute to other conditions such as sinus problems, ear problems, sleep problems, and learning problems Some children may use the palm of their hand to push the nose up in an attempt to relieve itching. This is called the “allergic salute” and can create a horizontal crease across the nose in children with chronic allergies. Allergies can also cause dark circles under the eyes. Sometimes allergy symptoms may be attributed mistakenly to a cold, but there are key differences. While both cause runny noses, wheezing, sneezing and watery, itchy eyes, only colds cause fever, aches and pains.
Allergy symptoms occur almost immediately after exposure to an allergen, while it takes a few days to feel the full impact of a cold. And while allergy symptoms can be chronic, colds usually clear up within a week. Children with allergic rhinitis are more likely to develop asthma and allergies can make asthma worse. Avoiding environmental triggers can help prevent allergic symptoms. Children should stay inside when pollen levels are high. Peak pollen times are between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Children allergic to mold should avoid playing outside on rainy, windy days and playing in or raking leaves. Allergies can also be treated with medication that can improve a child’s quality of life. If you suspect a child has allergies, talk with the parent about whether the child has been evaluated for allergies by a health care provider.
Reprinted with the permission of the California Childcare Health Program.
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