Pets, pollen, peanuts! All have the potential to wreak havoc with your child’s wellbeing. Here’s how to spot an allergy and manage it…
Did you know? Babies born during summer months are more prone to hay fever because their immune systems often can’t cope with the histamines in pollen.
How do you know your child’s persistent cold is not actually hay fever? Pollen season starts in August/September when trees and grass shed pollen, and peaks during November and December (exam time!). In fact, the grass pollen season in South Africa is unusually long, from August to April! The main symptoms are a runny nose, itchy eyes, coughing and sinus problems.
Fight it with antihistamines (a non-drowsy syrup is best for under 12s), saline nasal sprays to flush out the nostrils, and eye drops to reduce inflammation. Home remedies include smearing Vaseline around the nostrils to help trap pollen, washing hair before bedtime, and keeping windows closed on high pollen count days.
Proteins from pet hair, saliva or urine can cause allergic reactions. Symptoms include sneezing, puffy eyes, runny nose, wheezing, and occasionally eczema or hives. Antihistamines are of some use, but asthmatic symptoms such as wheezing should be treated by your doctor, who may prescribe a steroid inhaler.
Fight it by keeping your home as clean and pet-hair free as possible. Regular brushing of pets will be helpful, as well as vacuuming with a cleaner that has an allergy filter. Cat allergens are quite sticky, so wipe down walls and painted surfaces regularly. Anti-allergy bedding will make bedtimes easier too.
Nuts should be introduced with caution, and the first time they’re ingested should be under close supervision and observation. Nut allergies can vary in intensity, and an allergy can have fatal consequences. A mild reaction would be mouth tingling, facial swelling, a body rash, eczema or tightness in the throat. Nuts however, can produce a far more severe reaction, necessitating urgent medical intervention: difficulty breathing, rapid heart rate, throat swelling and a drop in blood pressure.
If your child reacts to nuts, consult with your GP, who will assess the severity of the allergy, propose appropriate treatment, and advise on nut avoidance practices the family and school may need to follow.