These days, it seems that everyone has trouble with allergies. Allergies can bother children with irritating runny noses and itchy skin, or in some cases be severe and even fatal. Allergies result when the body reacts to something, often without reason. They can run in families and often result in bothersome symptoms and require vigilance to avoid exposure.
Many of us develop a runny nose, itchy eyes and ears, and scratchy throat during pollen or ragweed season. Children’s allergies are much the same, the root cause being histamine released from an immune system attack on the allergen. An Allergist can help do skin testing to find out what your child is allergic to. Most allergies tend to be seasonal, or show up more in some environments.
Managing Environmental Allergies
Often the best treatment for your child’s dust or ragweed allergy is avoiding them, but as we know that’s easier said than done!
Here are some helpful ideas: Use a saline nasal rinse to help clear pollens and dust from tiny noses.
Ask your doctor about using an over-the- counter allergy medication like Aerius or Reactine, which can improve symptoms for 24hours. Try allergy eye drops for runny, red eyes.
As parent of a child with an anaphylactic allergy, I know all too well the worry and concern you have when your child is at daycare. The best way to be confident that your child is well protected is to communicate his/her needs to your care provider or daycare early, and thoroughly.
Review your child’s Emergency Plan with your day- care’s staff, and make a date to do so every year. Suggest that your caregivers work through a pretend scenario with you, and practice how to recognize your child’s allergy symptoms, how to give the epinephrine, and even include running through who will call 911. Emergency medical teams practice running through situations, and although it may feel odd to do so at the daycare you will probably feel more comfortable that a potential reaction will be handled well. Demonstrate to the staff how the autoinjector is given, and if you are unsure yourself, ask your pharmacist or your health care provider for a demonstration. Consider rehearsing the 911 phone call as well, as the caller will need to know the daycare’s address, your child’s allergy, and that one autoinjector has been given. If there is ever any doubt that your child is having a reaction, the autoinjector should always be given and 911 phoned. There may be some temporary discomfort of being flushed and a high heart rate, but missing an allergic reaction can be fatal.
Being Prepared with Equipment and Medication
Daycares should be equipped with a standard first aid kit, but may not have an autoinjector. Most first aid kits will not contain Benadryl, and it is important for you to discuss with your care team if your child is to have this medication during the day. Ensure that your daycare stores your child’s autoinjector(s) in a well-known location that is not locked and easily accessible. When the children are outside, ask that the autoinjector is brought outside as well; this is especially critical if your child has an allergy to stinging insects such as wasps or bees. If an off-site outing is planned, your child’s teacher should not only carry your child’s autoinjector, but a spare one as well should a second injection be necessary.
Managing Food Allergies
If your child’s allergy is food-related, review their menu with them and provide a list of potentially unsafe foods. Stress the importance of watching for cross-contamination of utensils and packaged food products. You may suggest that any packaged food with the warning label “May contain…” or “Produced in a facility which also processes…” not be served to your child. Consider bringing food for your child that you prepared yourself if the daycare menu becomes too restrictive. In Ontario, daycares under the Day Nurseries Act are required to post a list of children and their allergies in the kitchen and in all areas where food is being served. Suggest this to your daycare if it hasn’t already been enforced. Ensure that your child should not have food brought in by other parents without your approval. It may sound strict, but well-intentioned parents may be unaware of the risks the food may pose to your child.
*This information is for general purposes only, and is not intended to be specific medical advice. Please contact your health care practitioner for individualized health advice
This article originally appeared in Together Magazine by Dr. Jennifer Webster who is a family physician in Belleville, and a mother of two wonderful girls.