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Does your child have allergies?

Molly Cerreta Smith has enjoyed a career in the publishing industry for more than 10 years. As an editor of several regional magazines, she has had the opportunity throughout her career to meet many local celebrities, businesspeople, ent...

Cold or allergies?

Allergy symptoms -- sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, skin rashes and wheezing, just to name a few -- affect as many as one in six children, according to healthychildren.org, a division of the American Academy of Pediatrics. So is your child one of them? Read on to determine if you should have your child tested for allergies.

Child with allergies or a cold

Is it allergies?

First of all, it helps to define the term "allergies" and to determine what causes them -- though not every cause of allergies is entirely understood. "Allergies occur when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance such as pollen, bee venom or pet dander," according to mayoclinic.com. Some additional common allergens are molds, house dust mites, animal saliva, chemicals, foods, medicine and venom from insect stings.

Types of allergic reactions

According to mayoclinic.com, each of the several types of allergies can rear its head in its own way. For example, your child may have hay fever (also called allergic rhinitis) if he has congestion; itchy, runny nose; and itchy, watery or swollen eyes.

Does your child have patchy, dry skin? She could be suffering from an allergic skin reaction called eczema, which can cause itchy, red, flaking or peeling skin.

Food allergies are also important to watch for, especially in young children. If your child experiences a tingling mouth, swollen lips, tongue, face or throat, or hives, he may be allergic to a certain food.

Insect stings may also result in allergic reaction such as swelling at the sting, itching or hives all over the body, coughing, tightness in the chest, wheezing or shortness of breath -- or, in severe cases,anaphylaxis

Drug or medication allergies are also important to be aware of. If you give your child medicine and notice any of the follow symptoms, she may have a drug allergy: hives, itchy skin, rash, facial swelling, wheezing and/or anaphylaxis.

About anaphylaxis

In severe cases, allergies can cause life-threatening reactions, such as anaphylaxis. This is serious and can result in loss of consciousness, lightheadedness, severe shortness of breath, rapid and weak pulse, skin rash, nausea and vomiting, and swelling of the airways (which can interfere with breathing). If your child experiences any of these, don't wait for an appointment with your pediatrician to determine if she has allergies -- call 911! You can determine the cause later.

Unfortunately, allergies have no cure, according to mayoclinic.com; however, there are treatments, so it is important to determine if your child does indeed suffer from an allergy. Have your child tested so you can start treatment that best suits her needs.

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