Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Look for Asthma and Allergy Symptoms

By Brandi M. Seals

Children with allergies or asthma often go undiagnosed unless there is a strong reaction. Parents do not know what to look for. If your child exhibits the following symptoms, contact his or her pediatrician for an accurate diagnosis.

Asthma
Asthma is a chronic condition in which breathing is difficult when a person's lungs overreact to irritants. The lungs may become inflamed and obstructed. This is known as an asthma attack.

During an attack, the lungs cannot bring in enough fresh air to meet the body's need oxygen needs. Irritants are widely available and can be cigarette smoke, perfume, or pollen. When they are breathed in, the linings of the airways become swollen causing the airways to become narrow and full of mucus.

Asthma attacks are unpredictable and can last a short while or continue for days.

Common asthma symptoms include:
Shortness of breath when exercising or exerting yourself
A whistling sound when breathing
A cough that continues for more than ten days
Tightness in the chest
Frequent respiratory infections that last for more than two weeks

See a doctor if you think your child may have asthma. There is no way to cure asthma but it can be controlled with medications.

If your child is diagnosed with asthma, it is very important that the adults around him know about it. Notify your child's school or daycare. Make sure they are aware of things that can trigger an asthma attack, symptoms of an attack, and what they should do if the attack gets worse.

Common asthma triggers:
Upper respiratory infections
Allergens such as animal dander, dust, pollen, and foods
Stressful situations
Vigorous exercise
Airborne pollutants like cigarette smoke, strong perfumes, and car exhaust

It is estimated that 4.8 million infants and children suffer from asthma. Overall, around 15 million Americans have asthma.

Allergies
Up to two million kids have some sort of allergy. Overall, 50 million Americans are affected by food, airborne, or animal allergies. For most, allergies are little more than a nuisance, but for some they cause major problems.

An allergy is immune system reaction to a typically harmless substance. But for some reason, your child’s body sees the allergen as an invader and attacks it.

When exposed to an allergen, the immune system will produce an antibody. More and more antibodies are produced with each exposure. Once the antibodies begin to attack the allergen, they will cause an allergic reaction that may include coughing, sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes and/or congestion.

Many of the most common allergens are airborne, such as pollen and dust mites, animal dander, and foods. Allergies can be seasonal due to fluctuating pollen counts or they may be year-round as is the case for those allergic to dust mites. Different allergens are more prevalent in different parts of the country or the world, but moving will not solve the problem. He will most likely develop allergies to the irritants in his new environment.

Children inherit the likelihood of having allergies from their parents. If one parent has allergies, there is a one in four chance that a child will also have allergies. The risk is higher if both parents have allergies. Children do not inherit a particular allergy (like being allergic to seafood) but rather just the likelihood of having allergies.

Airborne allergens can cause allergic rhinitis. That means the person suffers from sneezing, itchy nose and/or throat, nasal congestion, and coughing. Often times these symptoms are accompanied by allergic conjunctivitis or itchy, watery, and/or red eyes.

In children with food allergies, some exhibit oral allergy syndrome or an itchy mouth and throat. Others form a rash or experience cramping accompanied by nausea and vomiting or diarrhea. Other common symptoms are hives, wheezing, rhinitis, and shortness of breath.

If the reaction is extreme, a child may develop anaphylactic shock, a life-threatening condition. Severe symptoms or reactions require immediate medical attention.

Sometimes it is easy to identify allergies based on reactions after exposure. But some are trickier and are mistaken as other conditions.

If your child has cold-like symptoms for more than a week or two or develops symptoms at the same time every year, consult your pediatrician. The doctor may be able to make a diagnosis or refer you to an allergist for allergy skin tests.

Allergy symptoms may be relieved by limiting exposure to allergens or the use of medications or shots can be used to desensitize your child.

Food allergies cannot be desensitized. The only way to avoid symptoms is for your child to avoid the food causing the problem.

Common foods that cause reactions:
milk
soy
egg whites
wheat
shellfish
peanuts.

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