Allergies are a normal human bodily response to certain pathogens that come into contact with the body. The body detects that these substances are harmful (they are often not) and triggers an immune system response. The body will release antibodies known as immunoglobulin E. Certain naturally produced chemicals (such as histamines) are released into the bloodstream, causing symptoms such as watery eyes, itchy throat and runny nose.
Substances that trigger allergies are called allergens.
Allergies are incredibly common and make up for a huge percentage of minor illnesses in Singapore. Allergies in your child can occur more or less frequently based on factors like environment, climate and cleanliness. Find out more about allergies in children here.
Allergies in your child are likely to be hereditary. If you have a family history of allergies, it is prudent to get your child screened for allergies as soon as possible. Children are also more susceptible to allergies than adults, especially if that have other underlying conditions such as asthma.
There are many airborne allergens in Singapore that your child may be exposed to, including:
Many of these allergens are so microscopic that they are invisible to the naked eye. They can be found in a variety of areas in the household (bedding, kitchen surfaces, upholstery, etc) and also in nature (trees, weeds, grass, etc). Pets and insects can also carry allergens on their fur and bodies.
Along with airborne allergens, another common cause of allergic reactions is certain foodstuffs. Around 10% of children in Singapore are affected by some form of food allergy.
Common foodstuffs and foodgroups that cause allergic reactions in children include:
The type of allergic reactions in children can vary greatly. Mild symptoms from allergies can include:
For children with more severe allergies, a rare and dangerous condition known as anaphylaxis can occur. When this happens, the child might go into shock or have severe breathing difficulties and death is a possibility.
For children with severe food or insect allergies, it is a good idea to carry an epinephrine pen around. Epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) is used to combat the allergic reaction and stabilize the child. This can work to reduce swelling (especially important around the throat and airways) as well as raise dangerously low blood pressure with immediacy.
If your child suffers from symptoms resembling a flu or cold, he might be suffering from allergies.
The most common way to test for allergies is a test called a skin prick test. The skin prick test is administered by lancelet where a small drop of the allergen is introduced into the skin. There might be some mild discomfort or stinging as the area is pricked. The doctor will look at that area to see if there is an allergic reaction in the next 10-15 minutes. If redness or a lump occurs, then your child is most likely allergic to that particular allergen.
There is no permanent cure for allergies. Instead, symptom management and avoidance are the most commonly prescribed methods.
The best way for your child to avoid allergic reactions is to avoid exposure to potential allergens. For example, if your child is allergic to dust mites, be sure to keep their room neat and clean through constant vacuuming.
Education of your child on how to avoid allergies as well as what to do when symptoms occur is also very important. Caregivers of the children should also be properly educated on which allergies your child is suffering from so that adequate care can be administered in the case of an attack.
For certain children, immunotherapy in the form of injections can be administered. This will help to reduce the severity of symptoms and helps to desensitize your child to the allergens.
Symptomatic management of the allergic reactions may also be prescribed. Medication such as anti-histamines, eye drops and nasal sprays can often be administered in order to make the symptoms more bearable. Some of these medications require a doctor’s prescription, but there are many that are available over the counter as well. If your child has issues with allergies, consider visiting Dr. Dennis Chua.