IS IT ALLERGIES?
Childhood allergies seem to be on the rise. Some say it could be due to the way we live. For example, homes are sealed to keep in the heat in the winter and keep the heat out in the summer. We have wall to wall carpeting and throw rugs on the floors. All this creates an environment where dust mites can thrive. Other explanations may be that we are exposed to a greater variety of allergic substances and we are more aware of what allergies are. Less air exchange keeps stale air inside and carpet gives dust a place to settle. About 10 percent of all children have asthma and between 20 percent and 25 percent have allergies.
WHAT IS AN ALLERGY: An allergy is a negative reaction to a common substance that is either inhaled, ingested or injected. The reaction is brought on as the body "learns" to produce allergic antibodies. These antibodies are different from protective antibodies and cause an adverse reaction within the body. The first exposure to the allergen is often not a problem, but as the body is exposed to the substance repeatedly, the reaction may get worse.
ALLERGIC SYMPTOMS: Reactions such as hives and anaphylaxis may be the symptoms most commonly associated with allergic reactions, but there are others that may be less well known but equally as common. For example, an infant allergic to his formula may vomit or show other signs of stomach discomfort, which can manifest in simple crying. He might also develop diarrhea and have difficulty breathing. Simple irritability could also be a result of an allergic reaction in an infant. In older children, a stuffy nose and vomiting first thing in the morning could also indicate an allergy. The much mucous production could cause the child to swallow the mucous which could make her vomit. Other signs could also include recurrent respiratory infections.
ALLERGY MYTHS: Very often people will think they have an allergy to a food when in fact it's simply that they have an intolerance to it. One example is lactose intolerance. Pediatric allergist and author of What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Children's Allergies and Asthma, says only 2 percent of Americans have food allergies, but between 13 percent and 18 percent think they do. The most serious ones being peanuts. The difference between an allergy and intolerance is how the body handles the offending food. With a food allergy, the body's immune system recognized the substance from the food as foreign and attacks with antibodies. The result is often swelling, digestive problems, skin reactions, and difficulty breathing. Intolerance, on the other hand, is caused by a metabolism problem. It results when people don't have the right enzyme to digest the food and the result is diarrhea and vomiting.
KEY FACTS ABOUT CHILDHOOD ASTHMA AND ALLERGIES:
If there is a genetic predisposition for a child to develop allergies and he hasn't already, try to avoid exposure to animals and highly allergic foods.
A pregnant woman with allergies should avoid allergic substances such as animals and foods.
There is more to caring for asthma than just taking care of the lungs – the upper airway including the nasal passages needs to be addressed.