An Explanation of Allergies in Children
How much do you know about your child's allergies? Here are some interesting facts:
With National Allergy Week (23rd - 29th April) just around the corner, Dr George Du Toit, a leading paediatric allergy expert from The Portland Hospital for Women and Children gives his top ten facts about allergies in children.
You Aren't Alone!1) If your child suffers from an allergy, whether it be asthma, eczema, a food allergy, hay fever or one of the many other types of allergy, you're not alone. It is predicted that allergies now affect 40-50%of the population, with the rate increasing fastest amongst children.[i]
2) No one is really sure why allergies are increasing. One thought is that nowadays we lead cleaner, germ-free lives and our immune systems are therefore under-developed and therefore over-react when exposed to allergens such as grass pollen, house dust mites and cat hairs. It is most likely to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors that act at different times.
3) Food allergies are most prevalent during the first few years of a child's life and affects between 6-8% of children in the UK. The most common foods children are allergic to are: cow's milk, hen's eggs, peanut, tree nut (e.g. cashew), sesame, soya, wheat and kiwi fruit.
4) Many children actually grow out of their allergies, for example, egg and milk allergy are normally outgrown in at least 85% of children by the age of 5-7 years, whereas peanut, tree nut and sesame allergies tend to continue into adulthood.
5) Common symptoms of food-induced allergies include rashes (hives, eczema), swelling, gut pain and vomiting, itchy red eyes and a runny nose, wheezing, and on very rare occasions anaphylaxis.
The Allergic March6) Eczema is a complex skin disorder which in children, often heralds the start of the 'allergic march'. Eczema, especially if early onset and increased severity, is strongly
house dust mites
7) In almost half of children, eczema is associated with an underlying food allergy and whilst the food allergen may not actually cause the eczema, eating it may make the symptoms worse.
8) Foods such as tomato, citrus fruits and berries may irritate eczema on the face. You can still feed your child these foods, but it's better to serve them cooked, and preferably after the application of a moisturiser to any dry skin or eczema patches on the face, to minimise symptoms.
9) Children of all ages can be tested for allergies (either through a skin test or blood test) but it's important that this is done by a doctor who specialises in allergy to ensure the condition is identified and managed correctly.
10) The good news is that the management of allergies is changing. Doctors and healthcare professionals are beginning to realise just how important it is to provide emotional support alongside treatment of symptoms, so do speak to your doctor and get the help you need. Additional information can be found at the British Society for Allergy & Clinical Immunology (BSACI), Allergy UK, UK Anaphylaxis Campaign, Asthma UK, and National Eczema Society.
Dr George Du Toit is a Consultant Paediatric Allergists at The Portland Hospital who specialises in the management of food allergy, eczema, asthma, bee and wasp allergy, hay-fever and antibiotic allergy. The Portland Hospital is the UK's largest independent children's hospital, devoted to caring for babies and children up to the age of 16.