An allergy is the body’s reaction to a substance that is normally harmless. With allergies, your child’s body sees the substance as harmful or foreign and his immune system reacts to the substance. Substances that can cause an allergic reaction are called allergens. Allergic reactions are common.
The immune system is the body's natural defense against bacteria, viruses, and other foreign substances. Before your child can have a reaction to a particular substance, his immune system must first be sensitive to it. Usually this means your child’s body has to be exposed to the substance at least once. Once it is sensitive to it, your child’s body will react every time he has contact with the substance. Most reactions are mild, but some are life-threatening.
Many things can cause an allergic reaction. Your child’s body may react to an allergen when he breathes, swallows, or touches it. The most common allergens are:
It is not known why some people develop allergies. Your child may have an increased risk if other people in your family have allergies. Also, children who are around tobacco smoke may be more likely to have allergies and asthma. Children may outgrow some food allergies as they get older.
Allergy symptoms may go away in a few minutes without treatment, or they may last for several days. Common allergy symptoms may include:
Sometimes an allergic reaction may be severe. This is called anaphylaxis and is a life-threatening emergency. It can affect the whole body within minutes. Insect stings, certain foods, and drugs such as penicillin are some of the more common causes of severe allergic reactions. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction may include:
The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history and examine your child. Most common allergies can be diagnosed from your child’s history and physical exam.
Tests may include:
Your child’s treatment will depend on the type of allergy he has and his symptoms. Mild symptoms may not need treatment, but your child may need to avoid the known allergen.
Several kinds of medicines may be used to treat allergies:
A severe allergic reaction is life-threatening and usually needs to be treated with epinephrine. Epinephrine relaxes the muscles in your child’s airways and throughout the body. It is usually given as a shot. Your child may need more than one shot to decrease symptoms. If your child is known to have a serious reaction, his provider may want your child to carry an emergency kit. You or someone with your child can give you the shot. Whether or not your child has epinephrine, call 911 or your local emergency services right away for all severe allergic reactions.
Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your child's healthcare provider. In addition, teach your child to:
Ask your child’s healthcare provider:
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.
For more information contact:
There is no sure way to prevent allergies.
If your family has a very strong history of allergies, try to avoid your family's most common allergens.