Allergies are problems of the immune system. Most allergic reactions happen when the immune system reacts to a “false alarm.” Normally, the human body defends itself against harmful things, such as viruses or bacteria. But sometimes the defenses violently attack mostly mild things, such as dust, mold, or pollen.
The immune system makes large amounts of the antibodies called immunoglobin E (IgE). This is a complex chemical weapon that attacks and kills the “enemy.” Each IgE antibody exactly targets a certain allergen or thing that causes the allergy. In this way, inflammatory chemicals are made and given off. This causes the child to feel some bad or even life-threatening symptoms.
An allergic reaction can happen anywhere in the body. This includes the skin, eyes, lining of the stomach, nose, sinuses, throat, and lungs. These are the places where immune system cells are found to fight off germs that are in breathed in, swallowed, or come in contact with the skin. Allergic reactions can cause:
Although many things could trigger allergic reactions, the most common triggers or allergens are:
Allergies can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or socioeconomic status. Generally, allergies are more common in children. However, allergies can happen at any age, or come back after feeling well for many years.
There’s a tendency for allergies to happen in families, although the exact reason isn’t yet understood. Often, the symptoms of allergies happen slowly over a period of time.
To diagnose an allergy, your healthcare provider will give your child an exam and take his or her health record. He or she may also do these tests:
Your healthcare provider will figure out the best treatment for your child based on:
The symptoms of allergies sometimes look like other conditions or medical problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
The three most effective ways to treat allergies are avoidance, immunotherapy, and medicine. Avoidance means staying away from something that gives you an allergic reaction.
Suggestions for avoiding allergens are:
Take vacations in areas where pollen is not as common, such as locations near the ocean.
Your child’s healthcare provider will also have suggestions for avoiding the allergens that cause reactions.
Treatments for rhinitis may include:
Decongestants are not recommended for children younger than age 4. Talk with your child’s healthcare provider for more information about allergy medicine.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider: