Childhood Allergies: Be Aware So You Can Prepare

Spring is here, and while it’s often a welcome reprieve after a long winter, it also brings seasonal allergies.

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association recently examined American children diagnosed with different kinds of allergies and allergic reactions for the newest installment of its Health of America series, Childhood Allergies in America.

The findings show a 104 percent increase in children diagnosed as “at risk” for an anaphylactic episode, and a 150 percent increase in the number of emergency room (ER) visits for children with anaphylaxis in the past seven years. These results highlight a major cause for concern for this potentially life-threatening condition in children across the United States. While anaphylaxis is relatively rare, children can be especially vulnerable to serious allergic reactions, since an allergy is not necessarily known until a reaction occurs.

In addition to anaphylaxis, the two most common allergies found in American children are rhinitis and dermatitis. Rhinitis – also known as hay fever –peaks annually with plant and dust allergy seasons each spring and fall. Dermatitis – known as itchy, irritated skin or eczema– remains relatively stable throughout the year.

The Childhood Allergies in America study showed the rate of diagnosis for each allergy in Kansas and Missouri to be in line with the national averages:

Rhinitis:

  • Kansas (8.8%)

Dermatitis:

  • Missouri (9.3%)
    • Kansas (4.3%)
    • Missouri (5.2%)

Identifying Allergies

Identifying the symptoms in your child before a severe reaction occurs is the best preventative measure a parent can take in allergy identification. Allergic reactions can range from mild to severe, with severe reactions requiring medical attention in most cases.

Here are some symptoms to look out for in your children:

  • Skin rashes or hives (atopic dermatitis or eczema)
  • Difficulty breathing (asthma)
  • Sneezing, coughing, a runny nose or itchy eyes
  • Stomach upset

Recognizing a Severe Reaction

Research shows a steep increase in ER visits among children with severe allergic reactions in recent years. A first step to combat this trend is continued awareness around the real dangers associated with allergies. Gaining knowledge about your child’s allergic symptoms and specifics around the anaphylaxis health condition helps parents keep their children safe from harm—and out of the emergency room.

When examining the triggers for severe anaphylaxis reactions in children, researchers found that reactions to various foods are responsible for 47 percent of allergic incidents.

Breakout of foods commonly associated with allergic reactions:

  • Peanuts (22 percent)
  • Tree nuts and seeds (15 percent)
  • Milk and eggs (6 percent)
  • Fish and shellfish (3 percent)
  • Fruits and vegetables (2 percent)

As more children are found to suffer from food allergies and are at risk of life-threatening anaphylactic reactions, the availability of affordable medication and ER care will be critical in safeguarding the health of American children.

Diagnosing Allergies

Working closely with your primary care provider to identify your child’s triggers is the first step in protecting them from potentially life-threatening episodes.

Your family doctor has the training and expertise to review your child’s history of allergic reactions and conduct diagnostic tests (such as skin-prick tests, blood tests and oral food challenges) to determine their triggers, review treatment options and teach your family avoidance techniques.

Diagnosis of any type of allergy decreases as children get older.; Twenty-five percent of all children ages zero to two are diagnosed with one or more allergy compared to only 14 percent of children diagnosed at ages 14 through 18. Allergy rates drop considerably for boys as they grow older than for girls. Boys under the age of three have the highest rate of diagnosis of any age group at 26 percent, while boys ages 14 through 18 have the lowest rates of allergy diagnosis of any age group at 13 percent.

Nearly 1.7 million American children suffer from one or more allergy – that’s 18 percent. Although a small portion of overall allergies trigger severe anaphylactic reactions, this spring allergy season is an opportunity to talk to your family doctor about the best ways to keep your children healthy and safe.

Jason Bessey, D.O., M.B.A.
Dr. Jason Bessey is a family practice physician at Spira Care Olathe with a passion for preventive medicine. He strives to achieve patient wellness goals through healthy lifestyle changes before the use of medication. Honest and caring, he values the art of communication and works to build trusted relationships with every patient.

Learn more about Dr. Bessey.

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