Parents’ Guide to Allergies
Allergies can be mild or they can be life-threatening, depending on the type of allergen. An allergic reaction is the body's exaggerated immune response to the allergen. The body perceives the allergen as a poison and responds by trying to eradicate it. When children have allergies, it's important to manage their health to keep them safe. When possible, avoid products and areas that will result in children being exposed to allergens. Avoidance of allergens can be crucial if the allergies are severe.
Food allergies are often severe and life-threatening. About one out of every 13 kids in the United States has a food allergy. The most common food allergens are tree nuts, peanuts, soy, eggs, milk, wheat, fish, and shellfish. Food allergies may have a genetic factor, and sometimes people with other seasonal or environmental allergies also have food allergies. Symptoms of a food allergy include itching or tingling in the mouth, dizziness, lightheadedness, difficulty swallowing, hives, and swelling of the mouth or throat. A severe food allergy can result in anaphylaxis, which happens quickly after exposure to an allergen. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include confusion, swelling throat, blue skin, rapid heart rate, hives, low blood pressure, and wheezing. Without medical treatment, someone experiencing anaphylaxis can die within 15 minutes.
Seasonal allergies are allergies that happen during specific times of the year involving triggers that are present in the air during these times. Tree pollination in the spring can be problematic for many people. Other people are allergic to grass pollination in the summer or ragweed pollination in the early fall. Some areas that have wet weather in the spring can also have significant mold spores in the air, causing an allergic response in people. Typical seasonal allergy symptoms include watery and itchy eyes, sneezing, runny nose, and coughing. Staying indoors and keeping windows closed may help minimize symptoms. People often resort to medication to alleviate symptoms, too.
Environmental allergens involve substances in the environment that bother people. These allergens may be seasonal in nature, such as pollens. They may also be year-round allergens such as pet dander, mold, and dust mites. Environmental allergies tend to be genetic, so families may pass allergies from parents to children. Common symptoms of environmental allergens include sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose, congestion, and scratchy throat. Some people also have skin reactions when they come into contact with allergens, developing a rash or hives. Avoiding environmental allergens is the best way to avoid symptoms. Medication can also help by controlling symptoms.
When an allergen comes into contact with a part of the body, it creates an allergic reaction. Some people have allergies to chemical substances. Common allergenic chemicals include chromium, which can cause skin issues, and nickel, which causes sores on the skin. When you know that a chemical allergy exists, it's crucial to pay attention to ingredients in products such as perfume so you can avoid products that contain the allergen.
Symptoms to Watch For
The reaction to an allergen depends on how the allergen enters the body. Allergens that are ingested may cause coughing, tongue swelling, throat closing, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bloating, and hives. Allergens that are absorbed through the skin may cause rashes, hives, itchiness, and redness. Allergens inhaled into the lungs through the nose or mouth may cause an itchy nose and throat, sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness. Allergens might also be injected into the body via a needle or the sting of an insect. If this happens, the body may have a severe anaphylactic reaction and respond with tongue swelling and throat closing.