What is it?
Most Australians will encounter an allergy at some point in their life. Allergies occur when a person’s immune system reacts to certain environmental components that may be harmless to others. These substances, commonly called allergens, can be found in (but are not limited to) pollen, food, animal fur and dust mites.
When a child comes into contact with an allergen, the body releases chemicals that cause symptoms including watery eyes, a runny nose, itching and swelling. This is the immune system's natural attempt to rid your body of the allergen.
Allergies can affect people at any stage of their life but can be particularly difficult for children, especially if the causes are not yet known. Symptoms may be mistaken for a cold but it’s important to note that allergies are not infectious. However, if your child is experiencing recurring symptoms it is strongly advised that you seek further medical advice. Allergens also contribute to conditions such as hay fever, eczema, asthma and hives.
Common allergens include:
- Airborne particles such as pollen, dust mites, animal hair, skin scales or mould
- Everyday foods such as eggs, wheat, peanuts, seafood and dairy, or additives such as preservatives, flavourings and colourings
- Skincare products such as make-up, deodorant or soap
- Fibres and material in clothing and jewellery
- Insect bites and stings, such as bee stings
Signs and symptoms
The symptoms of an allergy vary widely from child to child and depend on the kind of allergen, the severity of exposure, and what part of the body is affected. Some allergies, such as pollen allergies, are more prevalent at specific times of the year, so parents may find it beneficial to have a pollen calendar at hand.
Parts of the body commonly affected by allergies and the associated symptoms include:
- Stomach and intestines – nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting
- Lungs – wheezy breathing, cough
- Nose – stuffy, blocked or runny, sneezing
- Throat – sore, froggy, itchy
- Skin – itchy, red rashes
- Eyes – watery, itchy
What should you do?
Your local Guardian pharmacist recommends identifying the substance or substances that trigger an allergy so you can avoid them wherever possible. Talk to your GP or Guardian Pharmacist about identifying and avoiding allergens and how to ease specific symptoms.
This may involve:
- Self-care methods
- Decongestant nasal sprays
- Anti-histamines or other medications to help control allergies
- Creams to soothe skin
If your child suffers a severe allergic response, seek urgent medical attention.