1. Consult Your Paediatrician
It’s important to see your child’s doctor, who may recommend allergy testing to get
to the root of the problem and tailor treatment to your child’s needs. “Some patients think almost any problem they encounter can be caused bya food allergy,” says Dr Soh. “This is the mostmisconception I see on allergies.”
Before you see your doctor, start keeping a record of your symptoms, noting when they
occur and what, if anything, seems to help. Note down answers to questions like: Do your child’s symptoms occur when you are in the house as well as outside? Does he suffer more at night or during the day? Does he wake up with symptoms in the morning? Does a particular food or drink tend to bring on his symptoms?
An allergic reaction to food can affect differentparts of the body. Common symptoms include itchy, watering eyes, sneezing, a stuffy or runny nose, or an itchy, swollen mouth or throat. Allergies that affect the digestive system cause stomach pains, vomiting and diarrhea, and may show up on the skin as rashes, hives or atopic dermatitis. Allergens may afflict the lungs, causing wheezing, coughing or asthma, or the central nervous system, leading to headaches, irritability, fatigue and convulsions.
2. Get Tested
Allergy tests are used to detect allergies to dustmites, animal dander, mould spores,
pollens, certain foods, some insect stings, chemicals and even certain medications. “When
the child has an allergy, allergy specialists can do skin prick tests and IgE blood tests, which have been validated,” says Dr Soh. “The decision to do these tests would be left up to the specialist.
Management of allergies requires identification of the exact allergens, lifestyle management to avoid these allergens, and carrying rescue medications in case of a dangerous reaction.
Food allergies should not be confused with food intolerances. A food allergy occurs when the immune system reacts to a harmless food. A food intolerance occurs when the body has a chemical reaction to eating a particular food or drink. It’s best to be tested, because an intolerance won’t show up in an allergy test. Also, food intolerance symptoms (headaches, diarrhoea, hives) generally take longer to develop than those of food allergies.
Common Allergy Tests
SKIN-PRICK TESTS: This involves putting drops of suspected allergens on the forearm and sometimes the back, then lightly pricking the skin through the drop with a needle. Sensitivity to a particular allergen can be identified by an itchy, red, raised wheal (also called a lesion).
BLOOD TESTS: These are used for allergen-specific IgE antibodies. Blood testing is a useful alternative when skin-prick testing is not possible.
PATCH TESTS: Patch tests are useful when testing for contact allergic dermatitis. A
sample of the substance is placed on your back, and covered with adhesive strips.
The area is examined two and four days to see if a reaction occurs.
SERIAL TITRATION TEST: There are three main types of allergy treatment – non-medicated formulas, medication and immunotherapy. Your doctor or allergist will recommend the best medicines for you, and give you advice on dosage and how often you should use them, while eliminating or minimising any side effects.
3. Start Treatment
There are three main types of allergy treatment: Non-medicated formulas, medications and immunotherapy. Your doctor or allergist will recommend the best medicines for your child, and give you advice on dosage and how often you should use them, while eliminating or minimising any side effects.
ALLERGEN MINIMISATION OR AVOIDANCE: This is an important strategy for preventing allergic reactions and reducing symptoms. Some allergens like pollen or dustmites are more difficult to avoid than others. However, if your child is allergic to pet dander, it might be best for him to minimise contact with stray animals, or even the family pet.
Likewise, a shellfish allergy is also best avoided by making sure your child does not consume the seafood that triggers his allergy. “Parents cannot control the allergy; what they can do is be careful about the child’s exposure to the allergen. In addition, they can bring rescue
medications with them if the child’s allergy is severe,” says Dr Soh.
NON-MEDICATED FORMULAS: Basic treatments to soothe minor symptoms are available from most chemists and some supermarkets, and include saline nasal sprays or rinses that you can use as needed to treat mild hayfever symptoms like a stuffy nose.
MEDICATION: Decongestants and antihistamines are the most common allergy medications. They help to reduce sneezing and itching and ease the symptoms of a stuffy or runny nose. Other medications like corticosteroids work by preventing the inflammation which leads to the uncomfortable symptoms of allergy.
IMMUNOTHERAPY: Immunotherapy may be recommended if your child has severe and
persistent allergies that can’t be controlled with other methods. The treatment involves being given occasional small doses of the allergen – either as an injection, or as drops or tablets under the tongue – over the course of several years. The aim of treatment is to help you kid’s body get used to the allergen, so it doesn’t react to it so severely.
This won’t necessary cure your allergy, but it will reduce the severity of reactions, and means your child can take less medication.
ELIMINATION DIETS AND CHALLENGE TESTING: An elimination diet is usually done over a few weeks and involves avoiding foods identified as common causes of food allergy. If symptoms improve, foods are added one at a time, under controlled conditions, to identify dietary triggers.
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