Allergies in Children
Allergies, Asthma, Headaches, Skin Problems/Eczema, Stomach Aches
50% of children in the UK now have some form of allergic condition. Allergic symptoms can affect the nose, throat, ears, eyes, airways, digestion and skin in mild, moderate or severe form. These symptoms can go largely unnoticed until a child has been suffering with the problem for some time.
The consequences of suffering with one, or several, of these symptoms every day can cause a child to struggle with their schooling and other general abilities. Concentration levels can be reduced from lack of sleep, or simply from having the symptoms.
Perhaps it is difficult to pinpoint what exactly the problem is. If a child is having ongoing symptoms like coughing and wheezing it may be that they have asthma. It is not always easy to know what a child’s symptoms mean - maybe they simply seem a little run down, tired for no reason, or have skin problems such as eczema or psoriasis.
Asthma is a long-term condition affecting a child’s airways, making them more sensitive and likely to react to their triggers, such as pollen, pets or cold air. Asthma can start at any age but symptoms usually start in childhood - 1 in every 11 children has asthma. Asthma in childhood affects more boys than girls but as adults this changes. The number of girls developing asthma increases around puberty.
A child is more likely to have asthma if:
Eczema is a skin condition causing inflammation and intense irritation. Eczema symptoms tend to be caused by dry skin. The skin becomes hot, itchy and inflamed; it may also be red and appear irritated. In young children, patches of dry, scaly skin, or (less commonly) wet, weepy skin, can appear anywhere on the body. In older children, the eczema usually appears on wrists, ankles, elbows, knees and face, including the eyelids.
Skin that is affected by eczema gets sore and broken when it is scratched, it can look wet and may bleed. Scratching is hard to avoid since the main distressing symptom of eczema is unbearable itching but once the skin gets broken and cracked, infections can set in, causing even more discomfort.
Some people believe that food allergies cause eczema. This is not the case. Children are born with the tendency to have eczema and many things can make their eczema worse. These are known as ’triggers’ for the eczema. Certain foods can be triggers for eczema, especially in infants, but food is not the primary cause. If a food is found to make eczema worse, excluding that food may significantly improve symptoms but not cure the condition. A food that is not eaten often but causes symptoms may be easier to identify than one that is eaten daily, such as milk/dairy products, wheat or soya.
Some children can experience psychological, developmental and behavioural effects because of their allergies as they believe they are ‘different’ from their peers. For instance, if glue-ear goes unnoticed it may mean a child does not learn as well as they cannot hear their teacher. They may become frustrated, feel left out and become quiet and withdrawn as they cannot follow what is going on around them as easily.
As far as headaches and stomach aches are concerned, dehydration is a key factor as is skipping food at key times, such as lunch at school both of which cause blood sugar to drop. However, they can also occur because of a body’s intolerance to certain allergens and a child’s diet. If a child complains of tummy pain and seems unwell, perhaps has a fever, is vomiting, has diarrhoea, is not wanting to drink or eat and not wanting to do things that she or he normally enjoys (such as playing), that child is likely to have an illness.
However, often a child will have pain but not be unwell. Some of the children who have abdominal pain will be having a difficult time, perhaps at home, perhaps at school, but many children with strong pain do not seem to be stressed or unwell. Research has shown that up to 10% of children have abdominal pain which comes and goes. An illness causes the pain in only about 5% of these children.
Early reports back in the 1980s have found that allergies can affect any system of the body including the central nervous system. They can cause a diverse range of symptoms including fatigue, slowed thought processes, irritability, agitation, aggressive behaviour, nervousness, anxiety, depression, ADHD, autism, hyperactivity and learning disabilities. These types of symptoms can be caused by a variety of substances in susceptible children, though many have reactions to common foods and/or food additives.
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