An in-depth interview with Dr. Piyawut Kreetapirom, a pediatrician, and an allergist, about why more and more young children develop allergic reactions.
Are the rates of allergic reactions really rising?
The number of patients with allergies seems to be significantly rising. This could be an effect of better research methodology and better diagnosis. It doesn’t necessarily mean that people have become more allergic to things, but we just realized that the little illnesses we use to think are just unfortunate sickness are actually allergies that could easily be avoided.
What causes the rising rate of allergies?
Aside from the genetic factors, one of the causes of allergy lies in upbringing — processed food, living indoors, and the lack of exposure to nature can bring a kid to develop an allergy. Heavy air pollution also contributes to many types of allergies.
What types of allergies do you see among children?
‘Allergy’ is a term that covers many types of illnesses and symptoms. It can be divided by age:
- Newborn ( 0 – 1 yr ): Newborns usually have two types of allergy: food allergy — symptoms that result from food intake, such as, itchy eyes, lips swelling, rashes, stomach upset, and throwing up. Doctors would observe the symptoms to identify if it is an allergy to help mom avoid feeding or having that food again. One other common allergy for newborns is dermatitis. The newborn will have dry skin and red rashes. Some have round rashes on the cheeks or leaking lymph.
- Toddler ( 1 – 3 yr ): One of the most common allergies for this age is Bronchospasm — the baby gets tired very easily, catches a cold easily, or has trouble breathing.
- Early childhood ( 3 – 5 yr ): Lingering Bronchospasm that leads to asthma. If the kid gets tired after only playing for a while, needs to take lots of rest, or coughs while running, they might need to rely on a nebulizer to help stabilize the condition.
Aside from the age-associated allergy, 30% of kids nowadays have Rhinitis, known as a common allergy. The symptoms are runny nose, sneezing in the morning, snoring, loud breathing, and frequently catching a cold.
Some allergies naturally disappear as that kid grows up but might appear again around the age of 40, as the body gets weaker.
Do I need to visit the doctor right away if my baby has an allergy?
If the symptoms are threatening, such as swollen lips and eyes or breathing difficulty, you should take the baby to the doctor right away. You don’t need to hurry if the symptoms are light, like small rashes or dry skin. But if you start to suspect an allergy, it’s always better to see the doctor than to look it up on the internet, as there are many unreliable sources that could make you overlook serious problems.
Do rashes in newborn babies are always a sign of an allergy?
Rashes don’t always mean allergy. Most babies are born with rashes and dry spots that usually go away in 2-3 months.
Can a mom’s eating habits create a food allergy?
Doctors highly recommend balancing your diet. Don’t refrain from any food altogether, and don’t eat too much of anything. The food you avoid or eat too much can become the food your baby is allergic to. So, eat healthily and diversely.
Can babies have allergic reactions through breast milk?
Yes. Some food can still have traces in breast milk and other foods, such as cow’s milk, eggs, or soybean. But only a few numbers of babies show allergic reactions. The baby has to be severely allergic to be able to have effects from such a tiny amount. Usually, moms can have anything they want as long as it’s not toxic.
Any last word of advice?
I encourage you to have your little one taste all the food, play outside, and run wild. Be careful but don’t be scared.
Dr. Piyawut Kreetapirom, MD. (31 March 2021)