A Rising Population of Child Allergy Sufferers
One fact that alarms experts is that the number of children suffering from eczema, allergies, and asthma continues to rise each year. More than 9 percent of American kids have asthma, and as many as 20 percent have allergies to substances including food, pollen, grass, and dust mites.
There is no clear explanation for this trend, but some experts point to the "hygiene" theory. They wonder if people who live in developed countries -- where the increases are the most dramatic -- are just too clean. "We aren't exposed to some bacteria and viruses that we may actually need to 'educate' our immune systems," says Dr. Nadeau. We don't live among animals the way that people in some developing countries do, she adds, and we spend more time indoors.
So what recourse does a parent have? Experts agree that breastfeeding doesn't necessarily prevent eczema, allergic diseases, and asthma from developing, but it seems to delay their onset. And there's more good news: Your child might eventually outgrow her environmental allergies. She may even outgrow certain food allergies. Moreover, when your baby is diagnosed early, and you limit her exposure to certain allergens, it's possible to decrease her chances of developing other food allergies, allergic rhinitis, and asthma, says Dr. Nadeau.
Allergic Reactions to Insect Stings
Usually, stings are painful for a few minutes, with symptoms limited to redness, swelling, and itching right where the insect pricked the skin. However, a small number of people, including children, are severely allergic, says Howard Spivak, MD, professor of pediatrics at Tufts University, in Boston. "Usually a severe reaction occurs following a second sting," he notes. That's when the body's immune system produces too many histamines. Call 911 if your child is having a severe allergic reaction, including difficulty breathing, dizziness, nausea, loss of consciousness, or swelling that spreads to a large area, such as the face or the entire arm.
If your child has ever had a reaction -- common ones are hives and wheezing -- to a sting, Dr. Spivak suggests asking your pediatrician to prescribe an EpiPen. It's a portable injection that administers epinephrine -- a medicine that temporarily relieves allergic reactions, providing enough time to get to a hospital -- to keep on hand in case of an emergency. "You never know how serious the next reaction could be," he says.