What causes allergic reactions?
Allergic reactions occur when the immune system thinks a substance is harmful and attempts to thwart it. Mild allergic reactions include minor rashes, runny nose, sneezing, and watery or itchy eyes. Hives can be minor and resolve quickly, or they can be severe.
A severe reaction called anaphylactic shock is life-threatening and requires immediate emergency care. A number of things can cause allergic reactions in a child, including environmental triggers, foods, medicine, and insect bites and stings.
- ENVIRONMENTAL TRIGGERS – Kids can be allergic to all kinds of things in their environment. Seasonal allergies are often triggered by tree pollen, grass pollen, mold, and dust mites. Some kids are allergic to cats, dogs, or other furry pets, and have symptoms when the child’s body comes into contact with the pet’s dander, saliva, or urine.
- FOODS – While kids can be allergic to any food, the eight common foods that may cause an allergic reaction in some children are peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat. Schools normally put a protocol in place to ensure the safety of children who suffer from severe reactions to these and other foods.
- MEDICINES – Some children develop an allergic reaction to common antibiotics, such as penicillin. It’s important to work with your pediatrician to ensure that your child’s records indicate reactions to any medications. It’s standard protocol for UrgiKids physicians and nurses to ask parents if a child has any medication allergies before treating the child.
- INSECT BITES AND BEE STINGS – Getting stung by a bee is scary and painful for a child, and the sting site gets swollen and red. Bites from other insects and spiders may cause similar symptoms. Allergic reactions to bites and stings can progress to hives, and some children can have an anaphylactic reaction. In this case, it’s imperative to call 911 at once and employ the system of preparedness that you and your allergy specialist have coordinated ahead of time, such as using an EpiPen.
What are symptoms of a severe allergic reaction in a child?
A severe allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis. Symptoms usually occur quickly, within 3 to 30 minutes after exposure, and can appear in the lungs, on the skin, or in the heart and blood vessels. The child may have trouble breathing, and develop swelling in the throat, lips, tongue, or face. He may experience chest pain, feel nauseated, faint, vomit, and have a weak pulse. Hives — raised welts and red, blotchy skin — may appear.
How should I prepare for an emergency when a child has a severe allergy?
Your pediatrician or an allergy specialist provides you with an emergency kit that includes an epinephrine injector. When your child is old enough, he can use the injector himself. Until then, you and your child’s teacher or other care provider should understand how to use the injector in case it’s ever needed. As soon as you or a responsible adult sees a reaction starting, you should administer the epinephrine and call 911.