Allergy in children

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Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Where do they come from and how can parents prevent them?

Allergies are by no means the exclusive right of young people and adults. Children are also increasingly suffering from an overly violent reaction of the immune system to actually harmless substances. Health studies suggest that about one in four or five children suffer from an allergy, and this trend is still increasing.

To prevent their children from developing an allergy later on, there are a number of things parents can keep in mind. Especially during pregnancy and breastfeeding, there are several health tips that help prevent allergies. On the other hand, genes also play a role in whether or not an allergy develops. A history of allergies in the family increases the likelihood of an allergy.

If parents notice suspected allergy symptoms, it is best to take their children to the doctor. Because with an early diagnosis, treatment can also be started quickly. In general, the shorter an allergy patient suffers from his allergy, the greater the likelihood that the treatment will work and also be successful in the long term.

Causes of Allergies in Children

An allergy is a disturbed regulation of the immune system that regards an ordinary and harmless substance as foreign and incorrectly makes antibodies against it. Doctors refer in this context to a sensitization (hypersensitivity). The next time the body comes into contact with this substance, the immune system considers it dangerous and the antibodies attack the substance. Result: The messenger histamine is released and the classic allergy symptoms such as a runny nose and itchy eyes occur.

In principle, the same allergens that adults react to also trigger allergies in children. Pollen allergies such as hay fever are particularly common, but other respiratory allergies and numerous other triggers are also possible, such as:

  1. pollen
  2. fungi
  3. dust mites
  4. animal hair 
  5. substances in foods, for example cow’s milk or chicken protein

Whether a child is allergic can also be hereditary. Children whose parents suffer from an allergy have a 20 to 40 percent chance of being sensitized. When both parents are allergy sufferers, the risk is even twice as great.

Symptoms of allergy in children

Allergic reactions in children manifest themselves in various symptoms. Some of these resemble the classic cold symptoms, so it’s important to pay close attention. An allergy can be suspected, especially when the complaints increase in certain seasons.

Possible symptoms may include:

  1. Stuffy nose
  2. Sneezing
  3. Coughing attacks
  4. Itchy, red, irritated eyes
  5. Wheezing to real respiratory distress
  6. Skin problems and itching irritation (neurodermatitis)
  7. Gastrointestinal complaints

Allergic or normal nose cold? What parents should pay attention to

Is it still a nose cold or is it already an allergy? Parents often wonder when their child has a runny nose for the umpteenth time. This question is difficult to answer in children who sometimes catch a cold ten to twelve times a year.

The nasal fluid can give an indication: With an allergic nose cold it is usually crystal clear and very watery, with a cold, on the other hand, it is viscous. A normal nose cold usually disappears after a week, the allergic nose cold often lasts much longer. Moreover, it gets worse when exposure to the allergen in question increases.

Diagnosis of an allergy in children

Parents should take a possible allergy seriously from the start. A pediatrician or general practitioner, specialized in allergies, is best placed to make a reliable diagnosis. Do not forget to bring the official health booklet with you, because it contains the results of all screening tests that have already been carried out. In general, the earlier and more accurately it is detected which allergen triggers the symptoms, the more targeted and faster the allergy can be treated.

To discover the specific allergen, there are various test methods such as the prick test or blood tests. Doctors often prefer not to perform a classic skin test on babies and small children, because it is unpleasant for the small patients.

Treating allergies in children

The treatment of an allergy has three pillars:

  1. Firstly, the prophylaxis, ie the attempt to avoid contact with the allergen as much as possible
  2. Second, treating the symptoms with drugs
  3. Thirdly, the hyposensitization

So in the first step after diagnosis, parents should try to keep their child away from the substance that triggers the allergy. With foodstuffs this is still relatively easy, with pollen or moulds, on the other hand, this is clearly more difficult, as they often fly around indoors and are therefore difficult to avoid. 

If the child is allergic to pollen, it may be helpful to refer to the pollen calendar when planning your vacation, to wash the hair before going to bed and to clean the nasal mucosa with natural medicinal products such as nasal douches and saline nasal sprays.

In the second step, antiallergic drugs, for example antihistamines and antiallergics, can be used to relieve the acute symptoms. This relieves the daily complaints and allows a solid and healthy night’s sleep. However, the symptomatic treatment only helps in the short term, it does not ensure a long-term improvement.

Hyposensitization can ensure lasting improvement.
In the third step, the parents must therefore consult an allergist in connection with hyposensitization (also called allergy vaccination). This can positively influence the course of the allergy and reduce the symptoms. The treatment, also called specific immunotherapy, is suitable for children aged five years and older.

Preventing allergies in children

Children whose parents are allergy sufferers have a higher risk of developing an allergy themselves. Still, parents can do some things to reduce your child’s allergy risk. It is important to take the following precautions from the allergist before birth and in the first years of life of the child:

  1. Both parents should not smoke during pregnancy and after birth. Parents should also avoid passive smoking outside the family.
  2. Everything depends on the right nutrition: During the entire pregnancy, during breastfeeding and in the first years of life of the infant, a balanced diet that is tailored to the nutritional needs of mother and child is particularly important.
  3. As far as possible, it is best for the mother to give only breast milk during the first four to six months and not to give any additional food until the seventh month. If this is not possible, parents of at-risk children should resort to special, low-allergen milk or HA (hypoallergenic) food. This food can be prescribed by the pediatrician, and is then reimbursed by the health insurance fund. Baby foods based on soy, on the other hand, are better avoided.
  4. Being overweight in the mother can lead to allergies in the children. Mothers should therefore try to lose weight before a planned pregnancy.
  5. Overweight in children also promotes the development of asthma. Parents should therefore pay attention to their child’s nutrition and set a good example.
  6. As far as possible, parents are better off raising their children in a low-traffic environment – ​​at least as long as the sprouts are small.
  7. By regularly airing the rooms briefly and vigorously, you avoid excessive humidity, which can cause mold to multiply quickly.
  8. A dog in the household does not immediately mean a greater allergy risk. That is different with cats, cat hair is more likely to encourage the outbreak of allergies.
  9. The vaccinations against infectious diseases recommended by the Permanent Vaccination Committee (STIKO) probably reduce the allergy risk. That’s according to studies.

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