The way allergies and the immune system is complicated, so it can be tricky to explain to your child what is happening to their body when they have allergies. Each child is different and there are many different allergic conditions with the most common ones being food allergies, eczema and hayfever. These answers to common questions from kids with allergies may help you explain all about allergies to your child:
What is happening to your child?
Your child’s immune system protects and defends their body from all sorts of things, like colds, germs and diseases. An allergy is when the immune system overreacts to ordinary things. This causes a reaction known as an allergic reaction, which can be sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose, itching, skin rashes and hives. It is different for every person but these are typical reactions.
Why does your child get allergies and other kids don’t?
Your child’s body is getting the wrong signals and sees ordinary things such as peanuts (which are harmless to most kids) as invaders trying to start a war with their body. Their body is trying to fight the invader off which is what makes your child feel sick. Other kids’ bodies are not fighting these invaders, so they may not get sick from the same things. Allergies in kids are often hereditary, which means if they get allergies, then usually a parent, or even a sibling may have the same type of allergy. Children can get allergies at any time from when they were a baby right up into adulthood. Although allergies often get a bit better as they get older.
How do you find out if your child has allergies?
If they get sick after eating some food, or if have a runny nose all the time, or they itch and sneeze a lot, you may want to take your child to the doctor to check for allergies. The doctor will look for clues about which things in your home, outside, or in the food your child has eaten that are making them sick. Your doctor may ask your child to avoid certain things to see if it makes them feel better. You may even see another specialist doctor called an allergist. This doctor may give your child some tests which might involve taking some blood, or lightly scratching their skin and testing it with different things to check which one gives them a reaction. It doesn’t hurt but your child’s skin may come up in red, bumpy spots where the doctor has put scratches on their arm. This reaction shows that they’re allergic to that substance, also known as an ‘allergen’.
What do I do if they have allergies?
Your doctor will probably advise that your child should try to avoid what they’re allergic to as much as possible. If they’re allergic to things that drift through the air like pollen, dust, grass and pet fur, they may even give your child an antihistamine. This will help their body to not react as much, helping them to feel better. To help your child to avoid pet allergies keep your pet out of their bedroom and bathe them once a week. Keeping your pets outside as much as possible will help too. If dust is causing your child problems, it is due to dust mites which are so small you can’t even see them. You can use special covers for your beds and blankets and wash them in very hot water regularly. It also helps to keep their room nice and clean and don’t have too many stuffed animals.
If they’re allergic to a specific food they will need to avoid that food. If you have a serious allergy to some food it is important to be very careful and read food labels on everything they eat. It helps to bring safe snacks with your child to birthday parties and outings with their friends, so they don’t feel left out. Luckily many kids outgrow allergies to milk, eggs, wheat and soy. Although, if they have an allergy to nuts or seafood it may stay with them throughout their life.
For more information, ASCIA website.