Allergies in School-Aged Children

Allergies are caused when the immune system in the body is triggered by something that it recognizes as harmful, even though it is not harmful to most people. The trigger can be pet dander, pollen, or certain foods. This triggered immune reaction varies from person to person, from mild to severe. Knowing how to recognize an allergic reaction can help to be prepared for a possible emergency.

Did you know…
Food intolerance (such as lactose intolerance) is not a food allergy. It does not involve the immune system and is not life-threatening.  Usually, it happens because the food cannot be digested or absorbed. Symptoms are likely to be nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

Prevention

The best way to stop an allergic reaction is to avoid the trigger. For example, with a pollen allergy, stay inside with windows closed when the pollen count is high. For an insect sting allergy, keep garbage covered and away from doors, don’t bring sugary foods outside and clean up sugary spills right away.

Recognizing an allergic reaction

The symptoms of an allergy differ from person to person, but there are common signs and symptoms. Emergencies can be reduced if the signs of a reaction are well known. Click below to learn more about different allergies.

Seasonal allergies (click to expand) »

Also known as hay fever, seasonal allergies are the most common type of allergy. Pollens from grass, weeds, flowers, and trees are the triggers, which cause symptoms similar having a cold.

Symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Itchy nose, eyes, or roof of the mouth
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Watery, red, or swollen eyes
Food allergies (click to expand) »

Food allergies to wheat, nuts, milk, shellfish, and egg allergies are common.

Symptoms include:

  • Swelling of lips, tongue, face, or throat
  • Tingling in the mouth or throat
  • Hives
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
Drug allergies (click to expand) »

Reactions to any medication, such as over the counter, prescription, or herbal, can happen. Penicillin or sulfa drugs (any member of a group of synthetic antibiotics that contain sulfanilamide), are examples of medicine that is more likely to cause a reaction.

Symptoms include:

  • Hives
  • Rash
  • Swelling of the face
  • Wheezing
Skin allergies (click to expand) »

One of the most common forms of allergy.

Symptoms include:

  • Rash
  • Itching or burning
  • Flaking or peeling of the skin
  • Hives
  • Swelling of the eyes
Insect sting allergies (click to expand) »

Reactions can happen at the sting site or can be all over the body.

Symptoms include:

  • Swelling, redness, heat, or pain at the sting site
  • Itching or hives all over the body
  • Cough
  • Flushing
  • Wheezing
Anaphylaxis (click to expand) »

A severe immune reaction to food, insect stings, or drugs. This is a life-threatening allergy and must be treated as a medical emergency. 

Symptoms include:

  • Rash
  • Light-headedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hoarse voice
  • Rapid, weak pulse
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness

Treating an allergic reaction

Respond to an allergic reaction as quickly as possible. Antihistamines can be effective to reduce the signs and symptoms of a reaction; other reactions can be life-threatening and require the use of an epinephrine autoinjector, a medical device that injects a measured dose of medication used in emergencies to treat very serious allergic reactions.

A MedicAlert bracelet lets other people know about the allergy if communication is difficult. Parents are encouraged to talk with teachers about preventing, recognizing, and treating their child’s allergies.

Check with your school to see if it is part of the MedicAlert No Child Without program, which provides free MedicAlert IDs and service plans to eligible children between the ages of four and 14!

For anaphylactic reactions

Don’t delay in giving epinephrine! That’s one of the most common mistakes people make during anaphylactic reactions. Epinephrine is safe, and it can save a life. Don’t hesitate to use it.

Source: Food Allergy Canada

Involve your children

Families should educate their children about allergy management by teaching:

  • about safe eating practices, such as handwashing before eating, not sharing food,
  • how to recognize the symptoms of a reaction.
  • how and when to take medicines like antihistamines.
  • the need to carry an autoinjector, when age-appropriate, at all times if they are diagnosed with an anaphylactic reaction.

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Last updated: 2022-06-09