Child Care – Allergy Dos And Don’ts
Childhood allergies can run the gamut from annoying to life-threatening, but no one likes them. At first it can just seem like a cold or a rash, but an allergic reaction can quickly expand to require serious medical attention. There are a few good guidelines for how to handle them.
Do: Identify the allergen
You can’t manage an allergy if you don’t know what you’re managing. There are two common ways to find the allergen that is irritating your child: isolation and medical testing. Especially for substances like food, elimination/isolation can be very effective. You remove all traces of the suspected allergens, and then add them back in one at a time. Because there are no other allergens present, it becomes immediately obvious if something is a trigger.
With environmental allergens, it may be obvious right away; with foods, especially with milder reactions, it may take a few hours. The other way is prick testing. You would visit an allergist who would prick your child’s arm or back in a grid pattern or line, each corresponding to a single allergen. Later, you would return for evaluation of the prick spots. Generally allergens will cause a raised bump or rash. There are a few cases, where anaphylaxis is involved, when another testing procedure might be required in order to avoid endangering your child.
Do: Reduce exposure
Once you know what it is, avoid it. It is that simple. Of course, some things (shellfish, for example) are easier to avoid than dust or pollen. If you cannot avoid it, consider seeing an allergist, acupuncturist, or naturopath to investigate treatment options. Sensitivities and allergies are sometimes treatable.
Do: Take it seriously
Allergies don’t usually get better on their own (although children are sometimes lucky in this regard) and repeated exposure can often make things worse. What was a rash can become hives and swelling of the throat. What was an annoying cough can become a full day of watery eyes and constant sneezing. Do your best not to make it worse by overexposure.
Don’t: Rely on medication
Medication can be used to control the symptoms, but your body can also adapt to the medication and require increasing dosages to have the same effect. Many allergy medications are not safe at higher doses, especially for children, and they can throw your child’s symptoms out of balance. Try to find more natural methods to control the allergies. That said, if your doctor has told you to carry Benadryl or an Epi-pen, always follow those instructions.
Don’t: Keep it a secret
Tell people! People want to be helpful, but to help they have to know what is going on. Let the people who have regular contact with your child know what your child is allergic to and what the symptoms look like. If it is a food or environmental allergy, help the school or daycare with an information sheet including where those substances might be found. And if you child spends long periods of time in someone else’s care, the caregiver should have not only the appropriate medications but also a signed letter of consent to treat, so that your child can receive medical care in your absence if necessary.
Don’t: Let it isolate your child
Your child should not have to live in a bubble because of an allergy. Encourage your child to become aware and educated about what they need to know, but don’t scare them unnecessarily. You can teach older children to carry and use their medications if they need to, and to check food labels or other substances for their allergens ahead of time. Teach your child well and then send them out into the world, or they may resent and avoid the allergy management and treatment.
Childhood allergies can be a challenge and they can even scare you, but they don’t have to be an impediment to a good life. Learn about your child’s needs, teach your child to manage their own conditions to some extent, and help the people who work with them be part of the care team for your child. Keep your child educated without scaring them, and your child will be well equipped to live a normal life.