With the change of season one often finds that toddlers and children with allergies always seem to suffer that much more. You may find you seem to spend that much more time visiting your doctor and trying to establish what the cause is.
An allergy is an abnormal immune reaction to an allergen. If this reaction occurs in the nose or lungs, the body releases histamines and other chemicals, which cause the mucous membranes to swell. Often you will find that this may lead to a runny nose and streaming, itchy eyes, and heavy bouts of sneezing. According to research one in five people in South Africa have an allergy of some kind. There are various types of allergies, but it is the nasal allergy that is related to, and often confused with, asthma.
What is asthma?
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that affects the airways, therefore making it difficult for someone to breathe. The small airways narrow and there is an inflammation of the membranes. There may also be an overproduction of mucous.
Signs of asthma:
- A tight chest and wheezing
- Dry cough and difficulty breathing
More than 80 percent of all childhood asthma is diagnosed before the age of five. The important fact is that more than half of affected children will probably outgrow the condition by the time they reach their teens.
Similar and additional triggers
Spring! This can definitely be a very uncomfortable time for children who suffer from either condition, as both may be triggered by excessive pollen in the air. Other common causes include animal dander, mould, house dust mites, cockroaches and tobacco smoke. Both asthma and allergies tend to be inherited, and children with family history of hay fever, eczema or asthma are likely to develop an allergy.
Asthma can also be triggered by a viral infection or environmental factors such as a change in weather, insecticides, processed foods or even extreme emotions and physical exertion.
Asthma can’t be cured, but it can be controlled. Reliever medications offer immediate relief for the symptoms, and usually last between four to six hours, while controller medications prevent the onset of an attack. Both can be administered in tablet form, with an inhaler, syringe or nebulizer.
It is important that the daycare centre or school knows that your child has asthma and takes medication. Asthmatics should also be aware of any possible allergies that could trigger an attack. A rare trigger in younger children could be certain foods, such as cow’s milk.
An allergy such as hay fever may be seasonal or more chronic. Hay fever can be treated with oral antihistamines or topical steroid nasal sprays.
Useful tips for airborne allergies
This often works really well especially for airborne allergies, but remember that every child is different and bodies respond in different ways.
Stick to the medication that your doctor prescribed and don’t miss a day. You may feel like your little one has to take so many things with each new day but remember to simply stick to it as you will see a difference.
- Be prepared: Always carry allowed snacks with you. Also if you are going to a children's party, speak to the hostess before the event and find out what food they're serving and make your child an allowed substitute. There are great recipes such as chocolate cake with soya milk and an egg-free egg replacement. It's delicious and nobody would be any the wiser.
- Read the labels! Check everything and perhaps visit a dietician to help with creating a diet plan as they know what's on the market and what to look out for.
- Don't think that a health shop is your only port of call – often your local grocery store caters just as well. Again read the labels. There are a number of stores that specialise in labelling their products and have a wide range to choose from. Look out for Organic foods as these are often safe to choose from.
- If your child has a milk allergy, shop around for soya milks and find the taste that your child likes best. Some brands taste particularly close to cows milk and are readily available. There are also some great desserts and custard that don't have any dairy or eggs in them.
If your toddler goes to daycare, try and send food, so you know what they are eating – they are not trained dieticians, so might not think that any of your child's food allergens are in the food. If you can, try and find out what their menu is and provide the same for your child.
Be sure to speak to your little one and explain to them they can’t eat certain foods as it makes them a little bit sick – it’s good to get your little one involved and aware. Try letting them make a choice from allowed foods as this also seems to work.
Ideas for birthday parties for your allergic child
Having children with food allergies at parties can be somewhat of a challenge – with little hands grabbing delicious looking things, and mom having to police their choices. When they are very small, they really don't understand why they can't eat a particular food. Also, when catering for birthday parties yourself, it can be quite difficult to bake the birthday cupcakes or cakes to suit the special diet and still make it look really appealing!
Try to always have special treats like cupcakes in the house, even when not planning for a party. It will help to have stock on hand for any unplanned play dates or parties that your little one has been invited to. They won’t feel left out by not having what all the other kids are having.