There is a growing allergy and asthma diagnosis rate, of which there are varying theories - but what can we do to protect our children - if anything? As Allergy Awareness Week is coming up, I thought this would be a great opportunity to talk about how allergies can affect our children and those close to us, and how we can help.
Although allergies are common, especially in children, they’re often mild and can easily be kept under control. Some children who are born with allergies may even grow out of them, although some won’t. Milk and egg allergies are more often grown out of than peanut ones, which rarely are - for example.
Most allergic reactions are mild, but sometimes a more severe reaction called anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock can occur, which need immediate intervention and medical treatment. If your child has a severe allergy, the best advice you will get is from a doctor. There is no cure for an allergy, so it’s important to manage any allergy as well as you possibly can and on advice from a doctor or health practitioner.
An allergy can develop at any point in your life, even if you’ve never had one before. According to the NHS, common allergies include:
- Hay and grass pollen (referred to as Hay Fever)
- Dust Mites
- Animal dander
- Insect bites and stings
- Certain medications
- Household chemicals
Each of these allergies can cause a mild to moderate allergic reaction and sometimes a severe one.
Why do children get allergies?
Scientists don’t know what causes us to develop allergies in the first place. There have been suggestions that it could be caused by reasons ranging from a lack of vitamin D to gut health and pollution, but why some people’s bodies trigger an immune response to substances otherwise harmless to others isn’t a question we can answer yet. There is no cure. Although genetics seems to play a part - it will be more likely that your child develops allergies if you have a family history of allergies.
Preventing allergies from developing
There is no certain way to stop anyone from developing an allergy, but - there have been some scientific studies that may hold clues.
A 2008 study found that the prevalence of peanut allergy in Jewish children in the UK, where the advice had been to avoid peanuts, was 10 times higher than that of children in Israel, where rates are low – there, babies are often given peanut snacks.
It has also been noted in various studies that exposing children to certain common allergy triggers from birth may help prevention of allergic reactions developing later on. Living with family pets from birth, for example, has been observed to lower the chances of becoming allergic.
Spending time outdoors as well as exposure to pets and farm animals may help children develop an allergy resistance. Acclimatising to certain microbes early on is something that’s thought may have a significant and beneficial effect on the developing immune system.
Is an intolerance the same as an allergy?
No. For example, often a food intolerance can cause discomfort if a particular food or food group is consumed. These intolerances can often be severe and very painful, such as celiac disease, but it won’t cause the body to go into anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock.
There are helpful links and resources on the Allergy Awareness Week website here. This year they’re focussed on helping to advise people travelling with an allergy. Something that anyone with a serious food allergy will recognise as being a potentially stressful experience.
Does your child suffer from allergies and if so, how does this affect yours and their daily lives - if at all? We’d love you to share your stories and experiences with us at (enter email address) or on our social media @matchstick_monkey