Worried about a rash? Curious about that cough? Concerned your child has a food allergy? If you are a parent worried that your child might be allergic to something, you are not alone.
Dr. David Cremonesini, Consultant Paediatrician at Mediclinic Parkview Hospital in Dubai, with a special interest in allergy, breaks down the common problems where allergy is diagnosed.
Runny nose and itchy eyes
With most children having gone back to school after movement restrictions were eased, medical professionals are seeing a lot of runny noses and itchy eyes, and in many cases this will be due to viruses.
To figure out whether this is due to an allergy, is by looking at how your child was feeling before returning to school after the extended lockdown period. Your child wouldn’t have been exposed to many viruses during lockdown, but exposure to allergies won’t have changed much, especially ones in the home like dust mite, molds, or pets.
If your child was well before, it is unlikely allergies are causing symptoms at school. A fever, thick nose secretions, or absence of an itch makes allergy unlikely, but if you are in any doubt, an allergy test can help.
All children cough, but many cough a great deal and most coughs are caused by viruses.
Typically, a sudden onset with fever or runny nose is likely to be a virus and it can take up to 4 weeks before it passes. In early childhood it’s normal for children to get 10-12 viruses in a year so, if they are unlucky, a persistent cough that lasts months might be one virus after another.
Coughing due to an allergy will normally either be accompanied by an itchy nose and persist, or with wheezing or difficulty breathing.
Asthma is also a possibility, but the cough must be associated with a breathing problem (often during exercise).
Dr. David often sees a “habit” cough where a child is coughing all day, and breathing normally,but at night there’s no coughing at all. In asthma, a child would be coughing at night too.
Itchy dry skin or eczema
Eczema is a skin problem caused by irritation to the skin. Sweat, viruses, clothing, chlorine, and soaps all irritate the skin, but parents would often first worry about an allergy, especially related to food.
It is possible that food might be one trigger, but it’s actually less likely in children who are older than 2 years. Allergy tests, especially those related to food, are not always helpful in eczema cases and can lead to unnecessary food avoidance. So, it is important that if you are avoiding foods to bring them back in the diet when the eczema is better in order to challenge the skin and see what happens.
Firstly, parents must visit a doctor and tell him or her the full story. Their child should be presenting with an itchy rash, swelling in the face, vomit and (rare) breathing problem less then 2 hours after eating a certain food. Such a reaction always happens when the child eats that food.
In fact, allergy is defined not by a test but by a positive story. Dr. David is against food panel tests where many foods are tested, as it can lead to an over diagnosis of food allergies, since you can’t rely on a test alone.
This leads to two big problems:
1. Affects a child’s growth and nutrition
2. Increases risks of developing a food allergy
Studies tell us that over 90% of children (and adults) who believe they are allergic to antibiotics (commonly penicillin) are actually not. Avoiding antibiotics can unnecessarily lead to problems in adulthood. When, as an adult, you become unwell, oftentimes penicillin might be the best antibiotic to give, but doctors are hesitant due to worries about a possible allergy.
If you want to see how a skin prick test works, you can check out this video by Royal College of Paediatrics UK.
For appointments with Dr. David, simply call 8001999 or visit mediclinic.ae.
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