Allergy is a condition in which the immune system causes sneezing, itching, rashes, and wheezing, or sometimes even life-threatening allergic reactions. The more you know about allergies, the better prepared you will be to help your child.
What is an allergy?
Allergies occur when the immune system that fights off illnesses sees a harmless substance as a threat and reacts to that perceived threat. The substance or allergen can be eaten, breathed in, injected, or simply touched. This allergic reaction can affect different parts of the body causing things such as:
- Anaphylaxis: a severe, life threatening allergic reaction usually involving swelling, trouble breathing, and can progress to shock
- Asthma: the airways in the lungs swell and constrict. This can be triggered by an allergic reaction but non-allergic triggers are often the cause (viruses, cold air, exercise, smoke exposure, etc)
- Contact dermatitis: a scaly, red, itchy rash caused by touching things like poison ivy, oak or certain chemicals in items like creams, soaps, jewelry, or even nickel in the button of jeans
- Eczema: also called atopic dermatitis; a chronic, itchy, scaly rash not due to a particular substance exposure
- Food allergy: an allergic reaction to food that can range from stomachache to hives to anaphylaxis
- Hay fever: this connotes seasonal allergies, which can cause runny nose, congestion, watery eyes, and sneezing
- Hives: itchy welts that can by caused by foods, a virus, medicines, or other triggers. Viruses are actually a common cause of hives in young children.
- Insect sting allergy: potentially severe reactions from the sting of yellow jackets, wasps, fire ants, or other stinging insects
- Drug allergy: symptoms such as rashes or more severe reactions from both prescription and over the counter medications
What causes allergies?
Children get allergies from coming into contact with allergens, which can be inhaled, eaten, injected (from stings or medicine), or just touch the skin. Several of the more common allergens are:
- Pollens from trees, grasses, and weeds
- Molds, both indoor and outdoor
- Dust mites that live in bedding, carpeting, and other objects that hold moisture
- Animal dander from animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits, or horses
- Foods and medications
- Stinging insect venom
Read more about allergy testing and treatment at Forest Lane Pediatrics.