Allergies among children are on the rise.
Allergies among children are on the rise. In Australia, for example, one in the ten children has some kind of allergy, while in the US there are nearly six million children living with allergies. In the UK, food allergies affect 7 percent of children, while in Hong Kong 40 percent of children has some kind of allergy.
An allergy is a reaction of the immune system when it comes into contact with an allergen. This allergen can be anything from food to dust, pollen or even an insect sting. The body’s reaction to this perceived threat can manifest in a number of ways, from a rash, a running nose or watering eyes, to the more severe than can include vomiting, diarrhoea or even difficulty breathing due to the swelling of the tongue or throat. In the case of an allergy, these symptoms usually appear within a couple of hours of contact with the allergen. Whatever the seriousness of the reaction, it’s worth knowing what triggers such a response in your child. Most are hereditary; some appear out of the blue; all have a huge impact on both the life of a child and that of their parents.
Allergy testing is straightforward and has a number of benefits. Here are just a few reasons why today, more than ever before, it may be prudent that your child takes one.
- Allergies can run in the family
Children whose relatives suffer from allergies, as well as asthma, eczema and hayfever, are at an increased risk of developing the same allergies, particularly if either – or both – of a child’s parents have the allergy. It’s best to know early on whether your child is subject to the same allergies and an allergy test can provide this information.
- As many as one in 10 children suffers from an allergy
The figures are high – and seem to be increasing. No one knows why this is, but the rise has been attributed to deteriorating air quality, changes in diets and increased hygiene that means children are less exposed to the microbes that help build a healthy immune system.
The most common allergies among children are to peanuts, milk, eggs, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish. Some of these – such as soy, milk, eggs and wheat – will usually be outgrown and by the time a child reaches the age of five they will likely be free from such allergies and the accompanying reaction. However, allergies to peanuts, shellfish, fish and tree nuts often persist and are likely to be lifelong. It is therefore worth gaining an understanding of such an allergy early on and learning how to live with it safely.
- A seemingly common ailment could be something more serious
Children often have the sniffles or a runny nose, perhaps a tummy ache or bouts of sneezing, but these may not simply be a common cold or other ailment. Allergic reactions can manifest in manifold ways and such symptoms could signify anything from a pet allergy to a pollen or dust allergy to a mild allergy to a particular food. If you are regularly seeing these kind of symptoms – which also include coughs, a stuffy nose, headaches, puffy or itchy eyes – particularly out of the typical cold or flu season, an allergy test could shed light on their cause.
- Allergies can be life-threatening
Some allergies result in minor discomfort or symptoms that can be handled, however others can be far more serious with high risk levels as dangerous as breathing difficulties and anaphylactic shock. Knowing what could cause such a reaction means you can take steps to avoid such things.
- Identification can improve wellbeing
The response of the immune system to an allergen can be uncomfortable. None of the symptoms are pleasant, even if they are minor, and these can adversely affect your children and their performance. Knowing what can trigger a reaction in your child and how to avoid that can significantly improve their wellbeing – and yours.
- Identification without a blood test is challenging
The alternative to allergy testing is for a patient to eat increased amounts of a suspected allergenic food under medical supervision. Skin tests are also an option where extracts of a suspected food are used in the pricking of skin to check for a reaction. Measuring Immunoglobulin E (IgE) in the blood is the most direct allergy test. IgE antibodies are made by the immune system to protect the body from bacteria, viruses, and allergens. They are normally found in small amounts in the blood, but higher amounts can be a sign that the body overreacts to allergens. An IgE test can confirm whether a discomfort is caused by allergy so exposure to such allergens can be prevented.
- Confirmation and peace of mind
We cannot ensure our children’s safety if we cannot confirm their allergens. There is no cure but with confirmed knowledge of allergens comes better preparation to manage the condition and avoid the offending foods and exposure to them.
Harris Fraser provides access to Allergy (IgE) Tests in partnership with Pangenia Group. This comprehensive allergy testing package identifies more than 20 types of respiratory allergens and 60 types of food allergen.