Allergies are not uncommon and most people are sensitive to or allergic to some or other substance or food. For the most part allergies are more annoying (and inconvenient) than life-threatening and an allergy usually causes cold-like symptoms (coughs, sneezes, and wheezes), or hay-fever, or diarrhea. There are, however, serious side-effects to allergies and allergies which are not effectively controlled may trigger secondary illnesses (such as asthma).
The most common environmental allergies can be effectively treated with over the counter antihistamines, but often these antihistamines can lead to drowsiness, or irritability, and in some cases the cure may be worse than the symptoms.
What are the most common environmental allergies in kids?
- Dust and dust mites (dust mites are found in bed mattresses, carpets and couches and cannot be seen by the naked eye);
- Pet hair and pet dander (feces);
- Mold spores (this are microscopic organisms which float around the room) – the build of mold will be seen as a black or dark green mass on walls, inside cupboards, on floors, etc);
- Pollution (vehicle emission, smoke from factories and manufacturing plants), second-hand cigarette smoke.
Other common allergies:
- Allergies to certain foods (dairy products, seafood, peanuts, etc);
- Bee and wasp stings;
- Household chemical cleaning products.
The seriousness of allergies
Allergies to dust and dust mites are common in both adults and kids and although this allergy is not life-threatening it can lead to complications, such as rhinitis (where the nose becomes extremely blocked with thick and discolored mucus), and may also lead to asthma.
The airborne spores of mold can trigger asthma attacks and cause frequent colds (or flu) or chest infections. Pollen allergies are seasonal, when the pollen count is high (spring or early summer), and the allergy usually sparks hay fever (especially in the early morning or late evening).
Allergies to food such as dairy products can cause diarrhea, the inability to gain weight, and vomiting. Some children may develop a slight rash after drinking milk or eating dairy products. Other food allergies, like an allergy to peanuts or seafood may have serious and instant side-effects, where the child’s mouth and throat swells up; if left untreated the incident can prove fatal and as such, a child will require immediate medical assistance.
Insect allergies – when kids are allergic to the stings of bees or wasps, the area which has been stung will swell up. Children with a suspected allergy to bees and wasps will need to be monitored after the sting, to ensure that breathing is not hampered in anyway by the poison circulating through the body. If this occurs, the child should be seen to by a medical professional. In a home where cockroach populations are high, kids may develop an allergy to the fecal matter and shed skins of the cockroach. Such an allergy will cause the regular allergic reaction (sneezing and coughing) and this allergy has also been put down as a trigger for asthma.
Before an allergy can be fought, parents will need to find out what their child is allergic to. Doctors are able to conduct a sweat test (where a droplet of sweat is tested for possible allergies). This test is extremely accurate but costly, and as such, it may not be an option for many parents.
Trying to rid your home of dust is a virtually impossible task, but parents who suspect their kids are allergic to dust and dust mites, will need to follow a rigorous cleaning routine. Ensure that bed linen is charged regularly, mattresses are vacuumed and aired out (if possible for the entire day), floors are swept daily, and carpets vacuumed. If kids are allergic to pet hair – the parents will need to make the decision if the pet is going to be homed outside or if the pets need to be re-homed. Many kids are allergic to the fine hair of cats and due to this fact, cats should be discouraged from sleeping on kid’s beds or on the couches (scent-off is a product on the market that can be sprayed on the couches, this will repel the felines).
Cockroaches can be prevented using powerful pesticides; however the harsh chemicals in this pesticide can often be harmful to kids. There are also natural remedies to use.
Mold should be eradicated from the home and parents will need to check for any possible breeding areas for mold, these areas include bathrooms, kitchen cupboards especially those under the sink, or a cupboard next to a tumble-dryer or washing machine, damp areas, etc. There are also cleaning agents to remove mold but if a leaking pipe is causing the mold, the pipe must be repaired properly to prevent any future mold buildup.
Pollution is impossible to control but parents should refrain from smoking indoors and if they are smokers, they should create an outside smoking area. Kids should not be exposed to areas where pollutant levels are high, such as garages or workshops, etc.
Process of elimination
With wasp and bee sting allergies, in order to determine if an allergy exists, the child will need to be stung by a bee, but in cases where food allergies are suspected, parents can eliminate certain foods from their child’s diet, in a process of elimination to determine which particular food groups the child is allergic to. If a family member has an allergy to gluten (wheat), the possibility that the child will have one is rather high; therefore it is probably best to start eliminating the most probable source.
What causes allergies?
Allergy sufferers have a hypersensitive immune system, which means that the immune system attacks various substances, such as mold, smoke, etc. With the hypersensitive immune system waging war on these substances the body responds by coughing, sneezing or by swelling up. The response by the body can lead to irritating symptoms or a shutdown of the body’s major organs.
The cause of the extremely sensitive immune system is not entirely known – with some experts believing it to be genetic. Some allergies can be outgrown or will become less serious with age. Doctors will usually prescribe antihistamines to fight the symptoms of the allergies, or parents can explore natural remedies and treatments for the allergy.