If your child has allergies, you’re probably on high alert for signs of an allergic reaction and its triggers. This guide will help you understand allergies, how you can treat them at home, and when to seek the advice of your pediatrician or emergency medical facility.
SYMPTOMS: MILD OR SEVERE?
For most people, allergy symptoms usually range from mild to moderate. For example, during hay fever season, your child may experience itchy, watery eyes, frequent sneezing or nasal congestion. Food or skin allergies may cause mild stomach upset or hives.
A severe allergic reaction requires immediate attention, as it may lead to anaphylaxis—a life-threatening condition that can cause coma or even death if not treated immediately. Take your child to the nearest emergency room if they are experiencing any of the following:
- shortness of breath or wheezing
- tightness in the throat
- trouble breathing or swallowing
- severe cramping, diarrhea or vomiting
- tingling or swelling of the tongue or lips
- pale, damp skin
- dizziness or fainting
Allergic rhinitis, better known as hay fever, typically occurs in the spring or fall as a reaction to pollen released into the air by plants, trees and grass cuttings. Symptoms may include itchy, watery or swollen eyes, a runny or congested nose, and soreness or itching at the back of the throat.
You can help relieve your child’s mild to moderate symptoms with an over-the-counter remedy, such as an antihistamine (tablets or syrup), plus a nonprescription nasal steroid spray to reduce congestion. If such treatments don’t provide sufficient relief—for example, if your child has trouble sleeping—then see your pediatrician. Certain prescription medications may be more effective than or in conjunction with over-the-counter remedies.
If your child experiences an adverse reaction––diarrhea, vomiting or belly pain, nasal congestion or wheezing, itching, tingling, or swelling, especially in the lips, tongue and throat––immediately or within a few hours after ingesting a certain food or ingredient, then an allergy could be at play. The most common trigger foods include milk, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts, fish and shellfish, soy, wheat, and occasionally citrus fruits.
Seek immediate medical treatment if your child experiences:
- Constriction of airways or difficulty breathing
- Rapid pulse
- Dizziness or fainting
- Shock, characterized by pale, damp skin or a severe drop in blood pressure
While some kids outgrow sensitivity to certain foods, other sensitivities, especially to peanuts, require a lifetime of vigilance. You can help your child by establishing firm rules about foods that trigger symptoms and finding suitable alternatives among “safe” foods.
An allergic skin reaction, or contact dermatitis, occurs when skin comes into contact with an irritant (such as soap or lotion, a wet diaper, pet dander or saliva) or an allergen (bee stings, poison ivy, latex, or metals). The skin may react with an itchy rash, red welts or blisters.
Bathe your child’s rash in lukewarm water containing baking soda or an oatmeal-based product like Aveeno. Non-prescription anti-itch creams can help, as can an over-the-counter oral antihistamine like Benadryl. If the rash is severe or spreads into your child’s eyes, ears or genitals, call your pediatrician, who will likely prescribe a steroid cream or other medicine to help reduce itching and inflammation.
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