Common allergies in children (and what to look for)
With allergies in early childhood increasing over recent years, it is important for child care workers to know what to look for.
Allergies are most commonly an immune response to factors within the surrounding environment that are usually harmless – for example, dust, insects, pollen, animals and food.
Common allergies in children
In Australia the most common causes of allergic reactions are:
- dust mites
- pollen (grass, weed or tree)
- foods such as peanuts, cow’s milk, soy, seafood and eggs
- cats and other furry or hairy animals such as dogs, horses, rabbits and guinea pigs
- insect stings and tick bites
Some reactions are immediate or within the first 1-2 hours of exposure to an allergen. In other instances allergic reactions can be delayed anywhere from 2-4 hours to a couple of days.
While some symptoms are obvious, others are less so. Working in child care you should always keep an eye on children who experience any of the below allergic reaction symptoms:
- Tummy pain, nausea and/or vomiting
- Swelling of the face, lips and/or eyes
- Red and/or itchy skin
In the case of a severe allergic reaction which could be an anaphylaxis response, you might notice these symptoms:
- Difficulty with breathing
- Tightness in the throat
- Wheezing and/or a persistent cough
- Swelling of the tongue
- Dizziness and/or collapse
In child care centres and similar early childhood care settings children will have an allergy action plan which outlines what to do in the case of the child coming into contact with an allergen. This can vary and it’s important to treat each child’s allergy on a case-by-case basis.
For some allergies, antihistamines might be used. Asthma treatments may be used in some cases or where there is a risk of anaphylaxis an adrenaline auto-injector such as an EpiPen could be prescribed. If you spot any symptoms that involve a child facing breathing difficulties, it is always best to call 000 and have paramedics attend to the scene.
Minimising risk for children with allergies
If you work in a setting where you care for a child or children with allergies, make sure you are confident about symptoms to look for and how to treat them if exposure occurs.
Of course, the best way to minimise risk for children with allergies is by helping them to avoid contact with allergens. Communicate effectively with families and within your centre’s team to keep children safe and healthy.
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