Allergies are the major cause of sickness in most of the children and it is disheartening for the parents to see their child suffering. Though it is not possible for parents to control or prevent it fully, early detection of allergies can enhance the child’s quality of life, decrease the number of missed school days and help parents reduce their leaves from work to take care of the child. An allergic disease affects about 35% of all children and has been increasing in recent years.

What are allergies?

Allergies are abnormal reactions from your immune system to things that are usually harmless to most people. Our immune system protects us from harmful organisms that cause illness. If you have an allergy that means your immune system mistakes a harmless substance as an invader. There are various substances that can cause allergic reactions like some foods, dust, plants, pollens, or medicines and these substances are called allergens.

Why do allergies occur?

It is not known why people have different kinds of allergies. Inheritance can be one reason. If your close family member has allergies, you can be at higher risk of having them. There are also some substances that cause an allergic reaction. When the immune system fights with allergens thinking it will harm the body, it causes symptoms on the body which can range from mild to fatal at times. To defend the body, the immune system makes antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE) and these antibodies can cause certain cells to release chemicals into the bloodstream. The release of these chemicals is what causes the allergic reactions and it can affect eyes, nose, throat, lungs, skin and gastrointestinal tract. In future, if the body gets exposed to the same allergen, the reactions trigger again.

Some allergies are seasonal which means that they occur at a specific time of the year (when pollen count is high) while other allergies can happen when a person comes in contact with an allergen.

In children, skin allergies are most common followed by food allergies and respiratory allergies.

What are some of the common allergens?

  • Skin allergies are caused by dust, dirt, dyes or mold.
  • Air borne allergens are the most common which are carried through the air and include dust mites, pollens, pets and cockroaches.
  • Food allergies are caused by food allergens like cow’s milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, soy and wheat.
  • Insect allergies can cause swelling, redness and itching at the site of the bite.
  • Few medicines can also cause allergic reactions.
  • Chemicals in dyes, household cleaners and pesticides also act as allergens.

What are the symptoms?

The type or severity of symptoms may vary from person to person and allergy to allergy. 

Skin allergies can cause redness, rashes, eczema, hives and contact dermatitis and can be painful and irritating for your child.

 Airborne allergies can cause allergic rhinitis, which mostly develops by the age of 10 in kids, reaches its peak in teens or early twenties and often disappears between the ages of 40-60. Symptoms may include sneezing, itchy nose, sore throat, stuffy nose and coughing. 

Food, medicines or insect allergies cause wheezing, trouble in breathing, coughing, hoarseness, throat tightness, stomachache, vomiting, diarrhea, hives, swelling and itchy, watery or swollen eyes.

How to diagnose allergies?

For skin allergies, your doctor will ask for the medical history of your child and family to identify a potential allergen. If required, the doctor might conduct a patch test or a skin prick test. In both these tests, a small amount of allergen is introduced in the skin to check for any allergic reaction. If diagnosed with a skin allergy, your paediatrician will prescribe an ointment or a gentle skin cleanser for your child’s skin allergy treatment.

If your child has cold-like symptoms which last for longer than a week or two or develops a cold at the same time every year, then your doctor might diagnose an allergy and prescribe some medications. Skin tests and blood tests are conducted to find the cause of an allergy. 

To detect food allergies early in toddlers, paediatricians advise introducing one new food to the baby at a time. Maintain a food diary and note down the food along with the date when you first gave it to your child and note down any discomfort or allergies that the child developed.

Home remedies for allergies:

Although there is no specific cure for allergies, the symptoms can be managed either by avoiding the allergen or taking proper medications. Few home remedies for allergies are mentioned below:

Saline nasal solution: Nasal solution has been found to reduce the effects in both children and adults as it helps to clean mucus from the nose.

HEPA filters: HEPA filters trap the airborne particles such as dust, pollen & pet dander and efficiently reduce the allergens inside the home.

Acupuncture: Acupuncture has shown positive results in both seasonal and perennial allergic rhinitis

Honey: Honey is one of the best naturally available home remedies for allergies. Honey contains amino acids, vitamins and antioxidants which helps in healing. According to a theory, eating locally manufactured honey might reduce your allergic reaction over time to the pollen that the bees collect in your area to make their honey. But in some cases, when the honey is produced, it might get contaminated with bee pollen and pollen from other plants like buckwheat, tulips, sunflower. In case you are allergic to pollen, then you might also become allergic to honey.

Air Conditioners and Humidifiers: Air conditioners and humidifiers can lower the growth of mildew and mold that cause allergies.

Peppermint oil: Peppermint oil has anti-inflammatory properties that can lower the symptoms of bronchial asthma and allergic rhinitis.

Eucalyptus oil:  Eucalyptus oil has antimicrobial properties that acts as a wonderful home remedies for allergies.

Steam inhalation: Inhaling steam can help to ease a stuffy nose and breathe comfortably.

Nutrients/ Foods that can help: 

Vitamin C: Vitamin C boosts the immune system and acts as a natural antihistamine. Fruits & vegetables like bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, citrus fruits, kiwi, strawberries, winter squash, tomatoes and tomato juice are high in vitamin C.

Bromelain: Bromelain is an enzyme found in pineapple juice & is also available as a supplement.

Probiotics: Probiotics help the body maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria and boosts the immune system which helps to fight allergies. It can be found in fermented food like wine, buttermilk, yogurt, kimchi and pickled vegetables. (What are some easy probiotic foods?)

Quercetin: Quercetin is an antioxidant that helps to lower allergy symptoms. It is found in apples, berries, black tea, broccoli, grapes, red onions and red wine. (What fruits are food for teens?)

Cold compress: Rashes can be treated naturally by applying cold compress on the affected area. (How to reduce skin dryness or eczema?)

Home remedies for Child’s Skin allergy treatment:

Oatmeal bath: Oats can help in treating eczema and reduce itchiness. Adding oats to your bath water will help.

Aloe Vera: Aloe Vera helps in healing wounds and works as an anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiviral and antioxidant.

Coconut oil: Coconut oil is high in unsaturated fats and has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties which can relieve itching and rashes and is an excellent remedy for child’s skin allergy treatment. (What oils to treat growing leg pain in kids?)

Epsom salts (or Dead Sea salts): Adding Epsom salt or dead sea salts in your child’s bath water can help to soothe muscle pains and relieve itching and scaling. (What are the other numerous benefits of this salt?)

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How do Probiotics help with Sneezing or Skin Allergy?

Up to 40% of the worlds population (an upward trend!) suffers from some form of allergy. Nut allergy, sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose, eczema and many others. Allergies occur when the immune system overreacts to substances that are usually harmless, such as foods, pollen etc. At least 10% of children around the world have eczema.

The chances to develop allergies are largely genetically determined. Study shows that 12% of children with no family history of allergy, 30% to 50% of children with a single parental allergy and 60% to 80% of children with biparental allergies will develop allergic disease.

While peanut allergies are what parents hear about the most — which makes sense given that the number of kids with peanut allergies has tripled in the past 15 years — there are other foods that are most likely to trigger an allergic reaction in children- cow’s milk, wheat, soy, egg, fish. Food allergy is different from food intolerance. A child might feel bloated or gassy after having a milk product, but that could be a sign of an intolerance to lactose. However, in case of allergy, the reaction will be much stronger like extreme gut pain or vomiting or even more serious. The good news is that most children will outgrow their food allergy. Approximately 85 percent of allergies to cow’s milk, soy, egg and wheat will resolve by the time the child is 8 years old.

An allergic reaction is an immune system response to a particular food protein. 70-80% of immune cells are located in the gut (large intestine). This is also home to 100 trillion bacterias (gut microorganisms). There is enough research linking bacterias to immunity. The shift in lifestyle, rising pollution, use of antibiotics, and processed food consumption has all together impacted the quality of bacterias in our gut. This has contributed to compromised immunity in kids and adults.

Studies state that a lack of diversity in the gut bacterias can also be associated to allergies- seasonal or nut allergies. Children who are exposed to antibiotic or medication soon after birth, increase the chances of developing allergies early on. (Read about peanut allergy)

The good news is that our immune system can be modified from as early as pregnancy to infancy and further as we age. A well developed immune system ensures the maintenance of health for infants and children, throughout life. (What other foods help with immunity?)

Probiotics are one way to resume the disrupted immune system. Probiotics are live bacterias found in certain traditional food like fermented rice or bean, wine, buttermilk, kefir, kombucha, yogurt, miso, kimchi, aged cheese, pickled vegetables. We provide these bacterias home, and in return they extract vitamins and minerals from food for our body’s healthy functioning.

Recipe for Fermented Mung Bean Pancake

  • 1 cup Mung bean
  • Soak mung bean for 6 hours (why is soaking important?). Purée with water into a thick batter. Add pinch salt and Leave to ferment overnight covered with a soft lid, in a dark space in shelf or inside oven.
  • Once it’s fermented, add whatever veggies to mix you want (corn, capsicum, grated carrot) or don’t. Add turmeric powder. Heat the non-stick pan, add bit oil, drop a spoon of this batter and spread lightly (like pancake). Cover with lid to cook on low heat. Once done, turn to other side. Once done, serve. You can also top this with aged cheese (what is that?) and serve with any sauce on the side (some recipe of healthy sauce)

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