How many children are allergic?
Statistics show that there are probably several allergic children in your class: It is important to spot the early signs.
The number of allergic children is increasing throughout the world – and it’s not just homework that they are allergic to!!
The number of children affected by allergic rhinitis has doubled over the past 20 years.
The normal reaction of our body to an invasion by a foreign, potentially harmful substance is to produce antibodies which can then neutralise the intruders or antigens and this is part of the immune response.
When a non-allergic individual comes into contact with a harmless antigen (otherwise known as an allergen) they do not have any reaction. On the other hand an allergic person may become sensitized to the allergen and produce antibodies. On subsequent exposure to the same allergen these antibodies may trigger the release of chemical such as histamine which result in the clinical signs and symptoms of allergy. Usually the reaction is limited to one organ or body system such as the skin, the respiratory or the gastro-intestinal tract. However, on some occasions all of the body’s systems may become involved causing a potentially life-threatening emergency:anaphylaxis.
If the mother is allergic, the risk increases to 60% and if both parents are allergic the risk increases to 80%. However, allergies can also skip a generation.
Allergic rhinitis causes sneezing, itching of the nose and a runny or blocked nose. These symptoms might be seasonal (for example when the pollen count is high) or all year round, if due for example to the mites found in dust. The child often rubs his or her nose in an upwards direction, a mannerism known as the “allergic salute”. Unlike a cold, an allergy is not contagious and nor does the child have a fever.
Asthma means inflammation and narrowing of the bronchi that are responsible for inhaling air into the lungs. An asthmatic child often feels that he cannot empty the air in his lungs. Thus, a sense of suffocation occurs that makes the child anxious and panicky. The air passing through the narrowed airways often makes a wheezing sound.
Another symptom of asthma may be a (usually dry) cough which persists, and often gets on the nerves of the entire class!
Look out for an eye complaint that often accompanies respiratory allergies, especially hay fever. This is allergic conjunctivitis. The eyes are red and watery and the child will rub the eyes a lot because of itching.
Atopic Eczema is very common in young children. It is not contagious and these children should not be excluded from any part of school life. However, for many children, the appearance of eczema can be tough to live with and can be a social handicap. The skin appears red or scaly and dry, and itching is usually a big problem and may cause difficulties in concentration. These children are often labelled as loners as often they are spurned by their classmates.