For all you need to know about identifying and treating allergies in kids, we spoke to Dr. Fadil Y Al-Najjar, Consultant Paediatrician at Mediclinic City Hospital.
Allergies are among the most common problems world-wide. With over 300 million people suffering from Asthma alone, and recent studies showing that numbers of people suffering from allergies have increased over the past 15-20 years, allergies are a big problem. So what exactly are allergies? Simply put, allergies are a hypersensitive reaction to a substance, like dust, pollen, fur or food for example.
There has been a dramatic increase in allergies and asthma throughout the Gulf region, including in the UAE with studies now showing that 22 percent of kids in the UAE suffer from hay fever and that over 13 percent have been diagnosed with asthma.
Environmental conditions in the UAE can be considered as contributing to these figures as humidity is a factor which encourages dust mites. Other things to be aware of when trying to prevent allergies are avoiding junk food and even being excessively meticulous when it comes to kid’s hygiene could well also be a factor as many cleaning products and bath and shower products contain chemicals that can trigger allergies.
Every single day allergies are causing time to be lost from school and leisure activities, as well as in some instances adversely affecting children’s performance at school and quality of life. This is why identifying and diagnosing allergic symptoms at an early stage is so essential.
The most common types of allergies that affect children include: hayfever (itchy, runny nose, sneezing and watering eyes), asthma (troublesome cough, wheezing and breathlessness) and eczema (itchy, sore and weeping skin). They are followed by food allergy (vomiting, chronic diarrhoea, colic and poor weight gain), drug allergy (itchy skin rash) and allergy to insect bites (itchy swollen skin). Whilst they do cause troublesome symptoms, these allergies are, in general, not life-threatening. On very rare occasions allergies caused by drugs, nuts or insect bites can provoke a severe reaction requiring immediate medical help.
We have tests that we are able to perform to establish what the allergies are and from there most allergies can be controlled and prevented or minimised. Medical evaluation of the patient including specific diagnostic tests, is necessary to confirm the diagnosis and to help develop appropriate treatment plans. The most important step in identifying children at risk of allergy is a detailed history of any known and ideas for possible unknown triggers, as well as any family history of allergies as sensitivity to allergens can begin even before a baby is born.
The most widely used procedure to determine the allergy is allergy skin testing. This involves introducing tiny amounts of suspected allergens into the skin by pinpricks. Although it sounds painful, a new technique has made this procedure very simple and almost pain free so it can be easily tolerated by children.
In some cases, an allergy can be ‘cured’ by exposing the patient to increasing doses of the thing they are allergic to, in a process called ‘immunotherapy’. This usually takes 3-5 years to complete and in children, is easily given as drops under the tongue. Immunotherapy is available here in the UAE and if successful, should result in a total cure of the allergy.
www.mediclinic.ae/cityhospital (04 435 9999).