Top ten facts about Childhood Allergies by Dr George Du Toit
1) If your child suffers from an allergy, whether it be 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 to 50 per cent of the population, with the rate increasing fastest amongst children.
2) No one really knows why allergies 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, house dust mites and cat hairs. It is most likely to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors that act at different times.
3) Food allergy is most prevalent during the first few years of life and affects between six to eight per cent of children in the UK. The most common foods children are allergic to are: cow's milk, hen's eggs, peanut, tree nut (eg cashew), sesame, soya, wheat and kiwi fruit.
4) Many children outgrow their allergies, for example, egg and milk allergy are outgrown in at least 85 per cent of children by the age of five to seven years, whereas peanut, tree nut and sesame allergy tend to continue into adulthood.
5) Common 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.
6) Eczema is a complex skin disorder that arises due to complex genetic environmental interplay and which, in children, often heralds the start of the "allergic march". Eczema, especially if of early onset and increased severity, is strongly associated with food allergies and the development of aero-allergies, such as:
7) In up to 50 per cent 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.
8) Foods such as tomato, citrus and berries may irritate facial eczema. 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.
9) Children of all ages can be tested for allergies (either through a skin test or blood test) but it's important that this is done by a doctor who specialises in allergy to ensure the condition is identified and managed correctly.
10) The good news is that allergy management is changing. Healthcare professionals are starting to realise just how important it is to provide emotional support alongside symptom treatment, so do speak to your doctor and get the help you need. Additional information can be found at the British Society for Allergy & Clinical Immunology (BSACI), Allergy UK, UK Anaphylaxis Campaign, Asthma UK, National Eczema Society.