What is an allergy?

In October Hamish landed up in hospital because he could not breathe, was wheezing and had what looked like a bad chest infection which honestly had developed within a few short hours.

We had been happily picking strawberries one moment and by the time we got home I had a child crying that he could not breathe.

I wrote about our hospital trip at the time.

What resulted was us discovering, through a weekend hospital stay and some allergy tests, that Hamish had quite a severe dust mite allergy.

His allergy won’t be cured, but with proper care we can control them.

As a mom with a newly diagnosed child I read as much as I could about allergies and allergens and found many of my questions regarding the myths of allergies answered at Premier Allergy

What is an allergy?

Allergies are caused by the body’s reaction to substances called allergens. These allergens trigger the immune system to react to harmless substances they believe are harming the body.

When to suspect an allergy?

According to Healthy children the symptoms of an allergy can present themselves as one or several of the following :

  • Repeated or chronic cold like symptoms that last longer than 2 weeks
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal stuffiness
  • Sneezing
  • Throat clearing
  • Nose rubbing
  • Eye rubbing
  • Sniffling
  • Snorting
  • Itchy eyes
  • Running eyes
  • Itching or tingling sensations in the mouth or throat
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty in breathing and other respitory symptoms
  • Recurrent red, itchy, dry or flaky rashes in the creases of the skin. In particular the wrists and ankles.

Common Allergens in the home

Some of the more common allergens that can affect an allergy can be found in your home.

They include:

  1. Dust – Dust contains dust mites and fine particles from other allergens.
  2. Fungi – These include mould that is too small to be seen with the naked eye.
  3. Fury animals – most animals with long hair set off allergies. Pets like dogs, cats, rabbits, Guinea pigs, ect
  4. Clothing – Clothing made with animal hair, like sheep or alpaca wool, can irritate allergies.
  5. Toys – The same applies to toys. Knitted toys and plush toys store dust and these can agrivate an allergy.
  6. Latex – several people can have a reaction to latex in household products like gloves, erasers, balloons, toys and the elastic in socks and underwear.
  7. Bacterial enzymes – These are often used to make household cleaning products.
  8. Foods – Certain foods can trigger Allergies, with one of the most common being nuts.

How to control allergy symptoms

One of the first things our paediatrician outlined was how we could control our environment to make it safer for Hamish.

Dust mites congregate in areas where they can find the most food for themselves. As they live off flakes of human skin, they are commonly found in beds, couches, carpets, ect

For us this meant investing in waterproof matress protectors and pillow case protectors .

I vaccume his bed matress and planks every second day and as we have carpets I vacuume our home daily.

We threw out the soft toys, only keeping 2 or 3 favourites. We also wash his toys weekly and vacume things like teepees and tents.

If he plays outside I’m sure to wash his hands often and we always have allergex in the fridge.

We use a humidifier to keep the air clean but airconditioners are best as they reduce your exposure to pollen.

Mostly we listened to the advice of our paediatrician, and 3 months down the line i’m happy to say we seem to be able to keep his allergies under control.

For further information Premier Allergy and the Allergy foundation of South Africa have wonderful resources and articles on allergens and allergies.

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