How to Avoid Allergies Around First-time Childhood Experiences
As your baby grows, they have new experiences every day – playing outside for the first time, trying different foods, meeting pets and animals, joining pre-school… all of which can introduce them to brand new allergens.
Encountering common allergens is inevitable in childhood, and has to happen at some point. But how can you keep your child safe from developing allergies while they explore the world?
Learn about common childhood allergies, tips for parents on protecting children from allergies, and the triggers that can set off symptoms, with Piri Allergy.
When Might Kids Encounter New Allergens?
Here are just a few situations where children might encounter new allergens as they grow and reach new milestones:
- Playing outdoors in the garden, at school, or on holiday can trigger hay fever
- Insect bites and stings at the beach or park during the summer
- Meeting pets and animals for the first time, such as at a friend’s house, farms, and zoos
- Trying new foods at home or whilst eating out at a new place
- Playing on the floor and coming into contact with dust
Of course, you can’t protect your child from all these scenarios. That’s why it’s important to watch your child for any developing symptoms and take them to the doctor to confirm any suspected allergies, so that symptoms can be managed when these situations arise again.
Minimising Risk of Allergy Development
Even early introduction to allergens can’t stop some children from becoming allergic to certain things, especially if there is history of those allergies in the family. However, early exposure is generally thought to reduce the likelihood of babies and children developing some forms of allergies.
Exposing your child to animals from a young age can decrease the risk that they’ll develop an allergy to pet hair. Studies have found that children under the age of one who grow up with a dog are less likely to get childhood upper respiratory infections than those who don’t have a pet.2
It is recommended that you introduce common allergy-causing foods in small doses to children in their first year to help reduce the risk of food allergies forming. Eggs and nuts are especially important to try your baby with, to test if they have a reaction.7 Ask your doctor or health visitor for guidance on how to introduce common food allergens to your baby.
Common Children’s Allergies & How They Develop
Hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, is a common condition caused by the increase in airborne pollen during the spring and summer months. It mainly affects the nasal passages, leading to a runny nose and frequent sneezing, but can also cause sore eyes, an itchy throat, and blocked sinuses. It’s thought that up to 30% of children are affected.1
Hay fever can be an asthma trigger, lead to poor sleep, and increase the risk of sinus and eye infections. It can’t be cured and can be lifelong – however, it can be treated by taking daily antihistamines suitable for children, like Piriton Syrup and Piriteze Syrup, when the air pollen count is high. Ask your pharmacist which treatment will be best for your child’s age and symptoms.1
Being allergic to animal dander is common, and the risk of a child developing it increases if their parents also have allergies or asthma. Reactions to proteins in animal urine, saliva, and skin cells (dander) can inflame the nasal passages and trigger symptoms like sneezing, a runny nose, itchy eyes, itchy mouth, and coughing. If your child also has asthma, pet dander can exacerbate their symptoms.2
Unfortunately for those with pets, the best prevention of symptoms is to avoid contact with animals.2 If you discover your child is allergic to pet dander, avoid letting them pet dogs and cats and don’t get too close to animals at parks, farms, petting zoos, etc. If you’re going somewhere animals will be present, you can give your child an antihistamine an hour before arriving to help prevent symptoms.3
Bugs tend to come out in their droves when it’s warm outside, spelling bad news for those with allergies to insect bites and stings. Wasp, bee, and ant stings are the most common to look out for, and with good reason – insect sting allergies can cause anything from a mild itchy rash to life-threatening anaphylaxis. Luckily, children are less likely to suffer anaphylactic shock after a sting than adults.4
Mild insect allergies can be treated by removing the sting (if any), a cold compress, raising the area to prevent swelling, and children’s antihistamines. However, if your child feels dizzy, faints, vomits, or their throat closes after a sting, call for an ambulance.5
Dust contains dust mite matter, pet dander, pollen, food particles, and all kinds of other allergens and irritants, which is why many people sneeze when walking into a dusty room. However, if your child sneezes uncontrollably when playing on the carpet, or coughs a lot when in certain rooms, they could have a dust allergy.
Dust mite allergies can irritate asthma, leading to more upset if your child has the condition. The best method to tackle a dust allergy is to frequently vacuum, change bedding, and machine-wash household upholstery and cuddly toys.6 Find out more about preventing dust mite allergies and alleviating symptoms in our guide.
Peanuts, milk, wheat, seeds, and eggs are all common children’s food allergies.7 It can be hard to avoid some of these foods, but if your child is found to have a food allergy, it’s important to let their schoolteachers, childminders, and friends’ parents know so that they don’t come into contact when away from home and potentially suffer an anaphylactic reaction.
It can be scary to introduce your baby to new foods knowing that they could be allergic, but it’s vital to do so before they turn one – there’s evidence that delayed exposure can increase the chance of developing an allergy.7 Learn more about children’s food allergies in our article on the topic.
Some allergies, like pet hair and food allergies, can trigger eczema. Atopic eczema (also called atopic dermatitis) is a skin condition that causes flaky, itchy, inflamed patches of skin, commonly on the arms, legs, and face. It is common in children and usually appears in a baby’s first year.8
“Atopic” means sensitive to allergens and describes how eczema is linked to other allergic conditions like hay fever and asthma. Children with severe eczema often have food allergies too. Other triggers for eczema flare-ups include the weather, stress, soaps and detergents.8
Always err on the side of caution with severe allergies and get medical help quickly if you suspect your child is having a bad reaction. If your child has a mild reaction to some allergens, giving them antihistamines can help ease their discomfort. Discover Piri Allergy children’s allergy treatments to help your little one settle when mild to moderate allergy symptoms are triggered.
- The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne. Hay fever. https://www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/Hay_fever/. Accessed 14/02/2022.
- Mayo Clinic. Pet Allergy. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pet-allergy/symptoms-causes/syc-20352192. Accessed 14/02/2022.
- Asthma UK. Animals, pets and asthma. https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/triggers/animals-and-pets/. Accessed 14/02/2022.
- John W Tan, Dianne E Campbell. Insect allergy in children. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23586469/. Accessed 14/02/2022.
- NHS. Treatment – Insect bites and stings. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/insect-bites-and-stings/treatment/. Accessed 14/02/2022.
- NHS. Prevention – Allergies. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/allergies/prevention/. Accessed 14/02/2022.
- NHS. Food allergies in babies and young children. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/baby/weaning-and-feeding/food-allergies-in-babies-and-young-children/. Accessed 14/02/2022.
- NHS. Overview – Atopic eczema. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/atopic-eczema/. Accessed 14/02/2022.