If your child suffers from asthma, eczema, a food allergy, hay fever or one of the many other types of allergy, you’re not alone. It’s predicted that allergies now affect 40-50%of the population, with the rate increasing fastest amongst children. Which is why National Allergy Week, which starts today is here to help.
While no one really knows why allergies in children are increasing. One school of thought is that we lead cleaner, germ-free lives today and our immune systems are therefore under-developed and over-react when exposed to allergens such as grass pollen, and cat hairs.
Leading paediatric allergy expert Dr George Du Toit from The Portland Hospital for Women and Children says, “Food allergy is most prevalent during the first few years of life and affects between 6-8% of children in the UK. The most common foods children are allergic to are: cow’s milk hen’s eggs, peanut, tree nut (e.g. cashew), sesame, soya, wheat and kiwi fruit.”
The good news is, that many children outgrow their allergies, for example, egg and milk allergy are outgrown in at least 85% of children by the age of 5-7 years, though peanut, tree nut and sesame allergy tend to continue into adulthood. If you’re unsure if your child has a food allergy, symptoms of food-induced allergies include rashes (hives, eczema), swelling, gut pain and vomiting, itchy red eyes and runny nose, wheezing, and very occasionally anaphylaxis.
If Eczema is the problem it may help to know says Dr Du Toit, that in up to 50% of children, eczema is associated with an underlying food allergy and whilst the food allergen may not actually cause the eczema, eating it may make the symptoms worse. “Foods such as tomato, citrus and berries may irritate facial eczema” says Dr Du Toit, “Though you can still feed your child these foods, but it’s better to serve them cooked, and after the application of a moisturiser to any dry skin or eczema patches on the face, to minimise symptoms.”
If you have struggled to get a good diagnosis, allergy management is changing. Health care professionals are starting to realise just how important it is to provide emotional support alongside symptom treatment, so do speak to your GP and get the help you need. Additional help can be found at the British Society for Allergy & Clinical Immunology, Allergy UK, Asthma UK, National Eczema Society.
If you have any advice on what helps with your child’s allergies, please do share your experiences.