Allergies are a chronic condition, and one of the most common chronic conditions in the world. In fact, more than one third of the world’s population now displays sensitivity to at least one common allergen, and the rate has been rising steadily for more than 50 years. So, what exactly are allergies?
An allergy is said to be present when the body’s immune system reacts to a harmless substance as if it were a dangerous invader, such as a virus. Once the immune system is sensitized to that substance, it will produce antibodies anytime it detects it. This produces an allergic reaction, and the release of histamines and other chemicals in the body. Generally, mild symptoms will occur, such as itchy eyes, hives, or a runny nose.
For some allergy sufferers, the allergy is so severe that it can be life threatening. Within minutes of exposure to the allergen, a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis begins. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- difficulty breathing, due to narrowed airways
- chest pain or heart palpitations
- dizziness or confusion
- sudden drop in blood pressure
- loss of consciousness
Severe Allergies and Your Child
If your child has a severe allergy, keeping them safe is undoubtedly your top concern. But children can’t live their lives in a bubble. So, how do you help them avoid their allergy triggers? And, if that’s not always possible, how can you make sure they get the treatment they need, immediately?
Talk to Your Child
It’s never too early to begin talking to your child about their allergy. It is crucial that they understand their allergy trigger, and that it can make them very sick. Teach them early and remind them often that they must avoid that trigger. This way, they will be much more likely to stay safe even when you’re not around.
Avoiding Common Allergy Triggers
While it may not be possible for your child to completely avoid an allergen their entire life, there are a number of ways to reduce their risk of exposure. Avoiding allergy triggers depends on the type of allergy.
Avoiding Food Allergens
If your child has a food allergy, there are some basic steps you can take to keep them safe when eating away from home:
- At restaurants, ask for detailed ingredient information, and ask for substitutions if necessary.
- When visiting friends, let them know ahead of time about your child’s food allergies.
- When choosing packaged foods, read labels carefully, including any warnings about cross-contamination.
Avoiding Insect Allergens
Keep your child as safe as possible when enjoying the outdoors. Make sure they always wear shoes when walking outside. Discourage the use of fragrances, including lotions or hairsprays. Dress them in long pants and long sleeves if the weather allows it, in order to limit skin exposure.
Avoiding Drug Allergens
Your child’s pediatrician should already know about any drug allergies, but don’t be afraid to remind them. The same goes for your pharmacist. Remember, even professionals can make mistakes, and it’s up to you to double-check any prescribed medications.
Preparing for the Worst
If, despite your best efforts, your child does come into contact with a severe allergy trigger, you (and your child) need to be prepared. Make sure than your child’s teachers, friends, friends’ parents, and caregivers know about any allergies. Develop an action plan to share with everyone who interacts with your child regularly. The action plan should list any allergies and steps to take if an allergic reaction is triggered. Arm your child with appropriate medications, like antihistamines or an epinephrine shot. Supply them with a medical alert bracelet, and make sure they wear it. This can alert people nearby of the allergy in case your child is unable to communicate.
Raising a child with a severe allergy can be a scary prospect. But, you don’t have to let the allergy run your lives. Take appropriate steps to avoid triggers, but be prepared just in case. This way, you and your child can enjoy their childhood, instead of fearing it.