Do Allergies Affect Kids Differently Than Adults?
According to AAFA, more than 50 million individuals have allergies, and this includes kids as well as adults. Allergens typically fall into several categories, including drug, food, insect, latex, mold, pet, and pollen, which may affect children and adults differently.
It is estimated that allergies are the sixth leading cause of illness in the United States. Allergies occur when a person's immune system reacts to a foreign substance, like inhaled substances, medicines, or chemicals in an injection, foods we eat, and items we touch, like plants. It's important to understand that allergies cannot be cured. However, they can be managed through medications and avoidance.
Risk Factors for Developing Allergies
Individuals may be more prone to allergies if they have a family history of allergic reactions, including those in their family who have eczema, hay fever, or hives. Children are more likely to develop allergies than adults, and individuals with asthma are more like to develop allergies than those who do not have the condition.
Allergies in Children
Children are most likely to develop allergies between the ages of 5 and 16. Children with parents who have allergies are 25 percent more likely to develop allergies over time. According to AAFA, about 7 percent of children have allergies.
Types of Allergies Often Found in Children
Children can be allergic to items they inhale, eat or touch. It's important for parents to pay attention to the types of food their children eat and the items they come in contact with and monitor them for allergic reactions so that the appropriate medical care and medications can be utilized.
- Foods – milk, nuts, soy, fish, shellfish and eggs
- Medicines – common medicines that cause allergic reactions include antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, aspirin and sulfa drugs
- Skin – Latex, grass and weed pollen, insect bites and stings, soaps, perfumes, dyes
- Indoor – mold, VOCs, dust mites, mildew, smoke and exhaust, chemical fumes
- Seasonal – plant pollen from weeds, trees and grass
- Pets – pet dander and saliva
Symptoms of Childhood Allergies
Parents should write down any allergic reactions, symptoms, and potential causes whenever possible.
- Sneezing and runny nose
- Itchy throat, nose and/or eyes
- Sinus congestion
- Rash or hives
- Itchy, dry or red skin
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing (Requires emergency care)
- Anaphylaxis (vomiting, diarrhea, swelling of the throat, low blood pressure, fainting, loss of consciousness (Requires immediate emergency care)
Allergies in Adults
According to AAFA, about 8 percent of adults or slightly more than 19 million adults have allergies. By contrast, only about 5 million children have allergies. This is primarily due to the fact that allergies take time to develop, and as we are exposed to more substances, foods and inhalants, we find more things that cause allergic reactions.
Causes and Symptoms of Allergies in Adults
The same items that cause allergies in children can cause allergic reactions in adults. These include certain foods, medications, pollen, dyes, perfumes and pet dander. Symptoms are also mostly the same for adults as in children, except adults may also experience:
- Stomach or intestinal issues
- Stomach or intestinal issues
- Coughing or wheezing
- Swelling in the lips face or throat (May require immediate medical care)
- Feeling breathless (Usually requires immediate medical care)
- Chest or throat tightness (Requires immediate medical care)
Diagnosing Allergies in Children and Adults
If you suspect that your child or yourself suffers from allergies, it may be beneficial to talk with your medical provider. When you visit the doctor for your allergy symptoms, make sure to list everything you think you or your child is allergic to and the symptoms that are related to each item. The doctor may recommend a skin allergy test to determine the exact allergens. The test usually takes about 15 minutes and involves pricking the skin with a liquid that contains common allergens. Raised bumps on the skin indicate that an allergy is present.
How to Prevent and Treat Allergic Reactions
Preventing allergic reactions involve a two-pronged approach. First the child or adult must avoid the allergen. In practice, this may mean changing the furnace filters in the home more often, performing more frequent dusting and changing and washing bedding more often. Individuals with pet allergies may want to consider getting breeds that are low-allergen or avoiding pet ownership. Avoiding allergens may also mean not buying or avoiding exposure to certain foods and not going outside on high pollen days.
If avoidance isn't enough, your doctor may recommend an antihistamine that is either taken at the onset of symptoms or daily. Suppose the antihistamine doesn't provide enough relief. In that case, the doctor may recommend immunotherapy, which involves receiving injections that contain extracts of the allergen over a period of months or years in order to build tolerance.
For individuals with severe allergic reactions that have the possibility of sending the individual into shock, emergency epinephrine may be recommended. These are usually available by prescription as an injectable medication. Brand names include Auvi-Q and EpiPen. It's important to note that injectable epinephrine is not the entire treatment. It simply delays the allergic reaction while the individual is in transit to the emergency room.
When it comes to diagnosing and treating allergic reactions, vigilance is required. For parents, it may mean monitoring a child's reaction after exposure to an allergen, taking them to the doctor for treatment when needed, and utilizing OCT and prescription medications to control symptoms. For an adult, it may mean taking an antihistamine daily and avoiding known allergens. For those with severe reactions, being prepared for a response may mean carrying injectable epinephrine.