Childhood is supposed to be a time of joy and wonder - not constant sneezing and itchy noses. Yet, countless kids across the United States wrestle with childhood allergies every year. Learn what the types of childhood allergies are and what you can do to mitigate them as a parent.
What Are Childhood Allergies?
When you hear a parent or doctor say the term 'childhood allergies,' they are referring to cases of allergies diagnosed between the ages of two and 18. Anything before that is considered to occur in infancy, while anything after is an adult allergy.
Environmental childhood allergies can be broken down into two main categories - seasonal and indoor. Seasonal allergies are also sometimes referred to as hay fever or allergic rhinitis, and they typically manifest themselves during the spring, summer, and fall as watery eyes, runny noses, and sneezing. Indoor allergies come from exposure to everyday irritants like pet dander, dust mites, or mold and are prevalent year-round.
Children are also particularly susceptible to food allergies, which are likely to show up in the form of hives or rashes. The most common food allergies for children include milk, eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts. Unlike environmental allergies - which can easily last into or start during adulthood - many food sensitivities are known to resolve themselves before the age of 18.
What Are the Types?
Broken down further, childhood allergies can come in many specific varieties. It's not completely known why some kids develop certain ones over others, although many studies have discovered a connection between genetics and the likelihood that a child has an allergy diagnosis in their lifetime.
Children from families with a history of sensitivity to specific allergens are generally at a higher risk of developing allergies than those that aren't. Some types of allergies are also more common than others - namely pollen, which afflicts an estimated 60 million Americans each year. The most common allergies include:
- Pollen: Pollen is a microscopic substance that plants naturally release as part of their reproductive processes. When airborne, pollen particles can enter the nose, throat, and lungs of those nearby and trigger an allergic reaction. Allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, is another name for allergies that are specifically caused by seasonal pollen changes. Pollen allergies are often caused by pollen from trees, grasses, or weeds.
- Mold: Mold grows in dark, moist environments. Similarly to plants and pollen, its spores are released into the air and can be breathed in or absorbed through contact with skin.
- Dust mites: Dust mites live in bedding, furniture, and carpets. They don't directly trigger allergic reactions themselves, but their particles (feces and skin) can accumulate in the air and cause a reaction if inhaled.
- Pet dander: Pet dander is made up of tiny flakes of skin shed by animals, such as cats and dogs. These flakes can rub off on furniture or clothing and can trigger allergic reactions in some people.
- Insect stings: Insect sting allergies are associated with stings from creatures like bees, wasps, and hornets. People with this diagnosis are allergic to the proteins in the venom of the stinging insect.
- Food: Food allergies are more common among younger individuals. The most common foods that trigger reactions include peanuts, shellfish, milk, eggs, and wheat. Symptoms of food allergies can range from a mild rash or itch to life-threatening reactions that require immediate medical attention.
Signs and Symptoms
Childhood allergies result from an immune system overreaction to a normally harmless substance. Their symptoms represent the body's reaction to what it perceives as a harmful invader. This immune response can manifest in several ways depending on the individual.
Common signs and symptoms of childhood allergies include:
- Runny nose
- Itchy eyes
- Coughing or wheezing
- Skin rash or hives
- Abdominal pain
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Anaphylaxis is another less-common - but incredibly serious - allergy symptom that parents should be aware of. It occurs during severe reactions and is often characterized by difficulty breathing, wheezing, or a sudden drop in blood pressure. If your child experiences any of these signs or symptoms, it's essential to seek medical attention immediately.
The Importance of Allergy Testing for Kids
Allergy testing is a critical practice at any age, but especially so for children. Cases are considered more likely to develop in this age group and have increased in prevalence over recent years. A study published by the National Institutes of Health estimates that as much as 35% of children now suffer from allergic diseases. Catching sensitivities early ensures that a treatment plan is developed sooner rather than later and that symptoms of allergic reactions don't interfere with day-to-day life.
But aside from that, not knowing your child's allergy profile can also present an unnecessary risk. While most cases of sensitivity are non-serious, a select few result in anaphylaxis. This is a serious reaction that can cause a person's throat to swell, leading to difficulty breathing and even death in some cases. Avoiding any contact with potential allergens is just one way of minimizing the chances of this happening, so it's all the more important that you know what substances your child is sensitive to.
Even beyond the risks posed by allergies themselves, sometimes testing can be a helpful way of identifying the presence of other medical conditions and infections. Asthma, for example, occurs in many allergy sufferers and presents similar symptoms. A child may have it alone or additional sensitivities - tests reveal the truth.
Allergy Testing Options
We're fortunate enough to have access to a wide range of allergy testing methods and treatments in today's day and age. Here's a look at the two most popular:
Schedule an Appointment for an Allergy Test With an Allergist
In-person clinic visits are the traditional way that both children and adults have received allergy testing for decades. The process is simple enough; start by researching or receiving a referral to an allergist in your area. Their office will work with you to book an appointment, which depending on the care provider, may be anywhere between a few weeks and months away.
Once the time comes, you'll bring your child in to meet with the allergist and discuss the testing process. The gross majority of clinics today use the skin prick method, in which tiny allergen-laced incisions are made into the skin to observe how it reacts in real-time. Not all kids are tolerant of this, so it's important to dispel any fears beforehand and be ready to provide moral support.
Next comes a waiting game to see if an allergic reaction occurs. After 20 to 40 minutes, the doctor will assess the tested areas to look for skin irritation or hives to determine what, if any, allergens caused your child's skin to react.
Order Wyndly’s At-Home Testing Kit for Quick Results
At-home testing is a new alternative to conventional in-clinic appointments. Kits are shipped straight to your door, allowing your child (five years of age or older) to take an assessment alongside the comfort of their favorite plushie or TV show. Rather than relying on extensive skin pricks, at-home blood tests from Wyndly only require a small finger prick.
This provides enough of a sample to test for the most common indoor and outdoor environmental allergens - including pollen, pet dander, and dust mites. After submitting the small blood sample, you and your child will receive a comprehensive overview of their unique allergy profile. Wyndly's team of experts will also create a personalized allergy plan designed to treat their allergy symptoms for long-term relief.
What Are the Benefits of Testing Your Kid for Allergies at Home?
There are so many advantages to opting for at-home allergy testing. It's an innovative solution to a traditional problem, allowing for greater convenience and comfort when it comes to determining allergies and being proactive about your child's health. See just some of the benefits listed below.
- Convenient: No wasting time setting up, getting to, and waiting during appointments. At-home tests take less than 10 minutes to take, whereas in-person tests can require over an hour at the doctor’s office.
- Simple: At-home tests are simple enough for anyone to use, only requiring a small prick of the finger.
- Fast: With an at-home test kit, you'll be able to get your child's allergy test results faster than waiting to see an allergist in person.
- Affordable: Wyndly's at-home tests for allergies are much more affordable when compared to the costs of driving to and paying for a traditional in-person appointment.
- Less Invasive: No child wants to sit through upwards of 10 needle pokes that result in itchy hives. And with Wyndly, they don't have to.
- Accurate: Allergy test results are as accurate and reliable as any in-person test.
Take Our Allergy Assessment and Get Treatment Today
It's always better to be safe than sorry for your child's health. Wyndly's at-home allergy test is the best way to accurately and safely diagnose allergies. After we have your results, our allergy doctors will work with you to create a personalized treatment plan for your child to help them live allergy free. Take our allergy assessment today to see if Wyndly is the right fit for your child!