As you’re chatting with the other parents at the park and watching the kids play tag, you notice your son stopping to scratch his leg. Again. You call him over to see what’s up, and you notice some red, splotchy hives on his leg. You realize he’s probably allergic to that new bug repellant you just sprayed on all the kids. While you’re digging through your bag to see if you have any hydrocortisone to stop the itching, another mom asks if you have any tissues. Her daughter has been sneezing up a storm. But she assures you she’s not contagious. It’s just seasonal allergies.
Both kids are affected by allergic reactions, but in different ways. An allergic reaction is simply the immune system being hypersensitive to a substance that is harmless to most people. All of the children are breathing in the pollen in the air, but one child is sneezing. The bug repellant was sprayed on all the children, but only one child’s skin is reacting. What is harmless to one person almost acts like a poison to another.
Dealing with any kind of allergy is inconvenient and uncomfortable. Sadly, some kinds of allergies, especially food allergies, can be life threatening. While minor allergies are much less scary, they still have an impact. Allergic conditions affect a child’s physical and emotional health and can interfere with daily activities, including learning, playing and sleeping.
Contact allergies are often reflected in the skin first. They can be caused by contact with any kind of substance. Common contact skin allergens include certain plants, detergents, bug bites and personal care items like deodorants, lotions and soaps. Symptoms include:
- Red or darkened skin coloring.
- Leathery, cracked, dry or scaly texture.
- Blisters that ooze.
- Sun sensitivity.
- Swelling in the eyes, face or genital area.
Minor skin irritations can be taken care of easily at home with a few simple steps:
- Do not scratch! Scratching can open the skin, increasing risk of infection.
- Reduce swelling, redness and itching with a covered instant cold pack.
- Relieve itching with hydrocortisone or another topical cream with corticosteroids. Our school nurse friends’ favorite topical remedies include anti-itch gel, itch relief spray and extra strength cream.
- Further ease itching with an over-the-counter antihistamine like Diphenhydramine Tablets.
Airborne allergens most commonly affect the nose, chest, skin and eyes. Common airborne allergens include pollen, dust, pets and smoke. Symptoms include:
- Runny nose, itchy nose, sneezing and congestion.
- Coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest and irritable airways.
- Itchy, watery and inflamed eyes. Both eyes would be affected in the same way.
- Rashes, itchy skin and raised areas.
- Difficulty sleeping and concentrating.
When you are affected by airborne allergens like pollen, it impacts your ability to work, play, sleep and interact with others. You feel sick, but the only relief is for the air to clear of the irritant. Fortunately, there are ways to help relieve the symptoms:
- Avoid rubbing your eyes. Try applying a covered cold compress to your eyes or flushing out allergens with eyewash.
- Limit outdoor activity when the air quality index is elevated or pollen count is high.
- Try allergy eye drops and over-the-counter oral antihistamines like Diphenhydramine Tablets.
When to Seek Help
Many allergies are common. They are irritating but can be managed without professional medical care. However, more serious allergies can be life threatening. When in doubt, see your doctor or, in an urgent situation, visit the emergency room.
- Food allergens can cause stomach cramps, vomiting or diarrhea along with hives, breathing difficulties and other symptoms. If you have any suspicion of a food allergy, avoid that food and visit your doctor as soon as possible.
- The most severe reaction to airborne allergens is allergic asthma. Asthma is a serious condition that should be identified and treated by a medical professional.
- Chronic allergic reactions, whether in response to food, contact or airborne allergens, should be diagnosed and treated by a medical professional.
- The most severe allergies result in life-threatening anaphylaxis. Children and adults with severe allergies should have a medical plan that includes epinephrine.
- If you suspect a severe allergic reaction, call 911 immediately.
To manage minor allergies, be sure to keep a MacGill First Aid Kit in your home and in your car. No more rummaging through your bag at the park while your child stands by itching or sneezing. Whatever the allergen, the remedy is easy to find in the organized, complete MacGill First Aid Kit.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only.