Allergies are quite common in childhood. We have seen the causes of these allergies. Now we look in detail at the different treatments used in the prevention or control of allergies.
Avoidance is the best way to help guard against allergies in childhood. Avoidance essentially means protecting the child from contact with an allergen. It involves reducing the possible chances of exposure of the child to known or potential allergens. Parents can take various steps to protect their children from forming allergies.
Protection from allergies can start even before your baby is born. For instance, expectant mothers can reduce the chance of allergies in their children by abstaining from smoking cigarettes, including passive smoking.
Some medical experts recommend that a pregnant woman with a family history of allergies should avoid high-risk allergens such as peanuts to protect the foetus. However this is, yet, only a theory that is not conclusively backed by research.
This is a very important time in your child's life in preventing the development of allergies. This assumes even greater relevance in the case of children who have a genetic predisposition to allergy either due to family history or other causes.
If your baby is predisposed to developing an allergy—whether or not it is inherited—early exposure to that allergen can greatly increase his risk of developing an allergy to it. You can guard against this by delaying exposure to that particular allergen until his immune system is strong enough to cope with it.
Food: You can guard against food related allergies by ensuring that your child breastfeeds for the first six months or a year. Breast milk is not only safer—in that it lacks the allergy-triggering proteins, but also plays a crucial role in strengthening your infant's immune system. It is recommended that mothers of children with a genetic history of allergies, should avoid eating fish, shellfish, soya products, eggs and cow's milk, while they are breastfeeding.
Again, once your child starts eating solid food, you need to take adequate precautions against introducing food articles that are potential allergens such as peanuts, almonds, cow's milk, or eggs.
Air: Ensure that the air your child breathes is free from allergens such as cigarette smoke. In case of children who are prone to allergies, it helps to guard against dust mites by covering bedding with plastic covers. Other ways you can deal with dust mites is by ensuring lower humidity in your child's bedroom and regularly washing mattresses, pillows, and sheets with hot water.
Protection from dust mites is, however, recommended only for children who have a genetic predisposition for allergies. In case of children who are not allergy prone, exposure to dust mites may actually help the immune system to develop.
The same is true with regard to pets. While parents with a history of allergies are asked to exercise caution with regard to having a dog or cat while their infant is still young, studies suggest that in the case of other children, the presence of a family pet may actually prevent the development of allergies.
Medications, such as antihistamines, sodium cromolyn, and, nasal corticosteroids, are sometimes used to provide symptomatic relief in allergies. Many of these are safe for children. However, it is important that they should be prescribed by your child's paediatrician.
Allergic shots work by enabling the body to develop immunity against specific allergens. The treatment involves injecting minute doses of the allergen in its purified form in steadily increasing doses. A course of injections is typically given over a five-year period. Allergic shots prevent allergic symptoms from occurring in response to exposure to that allergen.
In effect, this treatment is like a form of vaccination that works on the immune system, causing it to accept an allergen without seeing it as a threat to the body. This prevents the allergen from activating the allergy causing reactions. An allergist (a doctor who specialises in treating allergies) usually administers the allergy shots. Their use is quite safe even for children. However, they are more effective with certain allergens than with others.
Do you suffer from allergies and are planning to have a child? Is your child allergic to food or any other allergen? What steps do you take to control allergies in your child? To share your experiences, views and tips with us, click here.