Your Child's Sick AGAIN - Is It Allergies?

She's sick AGAIN - and the school is starting to call and send the occasional letter.

You're worried. Your child used to seem so healthy, and today, she's growing well and eating. Yet she constantly seems to be coming down with something - a stomach bug, a sniffle, a low-grade fever even though nobody else in the house is sick.

Could it be allergies? Actually, there's an amazing (and daunting) amount of things any child or adult could potentially be allergic to. Though that may seem overwhelming, actually, if your child has been diagnosed with allergies (or if you suspect them), you may have a key to something that's been both puzzling and worrying you for some time.

Identifying allergic triggers could make your child's happier and healthier...and she may even begin to sleep, eat and learn better.

Childhood Allergy Stats

Up to six million children in the United States may have some form of allergy, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. However, this is only an approximation.

Why isn't there a more solid stat? The problem is that it  may be difficult to separate allergy symptoms from an actual virus or other condition.

In addition, childhood allergy may be underreported, as a child with a sniffle, rash or mild tummy upset is likely to be treated at home with over-the-counter medications or a quiet day off from school.

Allergies are tricky to pin down as few parents rush to the doctor at every apparently minor illness or discomfort. It's rational and reasonable not to panic, but if your child repeatedly suffers ailments and you simply can't pin down the cause, it may be time to investigate further.

Types of Childhood Allergies

Allergies are generally either environmental or come from foods. This is true of both children and adults.

Environmental sources can be either outdoor or indoor and may include:

* plant pollen (trees; flowers); grass

* reactions to insect bites or stings

* pet/animal fur/dander

* dust mites; mold

* irritants such as cigarette smoke, car exhaust, or perfumes/colognes

* foods (such as soy, wheat, eggs, milk, or nuts)

* cigarette smoke

How Do You Know?

Allergies don't always take the form you might expect them to. For example, the typical image of an allergy is sneezing, itching and/or watery eyes. But that may not be the case. Some allergies may include symptoms you don't expect.

Common symptoms of environmental allergies may include:

* itchy, watery or burning eyes; excessive tears and blinking

* sneezing, coughing

* dark circles under the eyes

* itch or rash

* scratchy throat, scratchy/irritated nasal passages

Common symptoms of food allergies may include:

* skin rash, hives

* dark circles under the eyes

* constipation, diarrhea or these two conditions alternating

* nausea, vomiting

* weight loss

* bloating/water retention

* a sallow complexion

Less common or less obvious symptoms of either type of allergy may include:

* insomnia or excessive sleep

* hyperactivity

* irritability, depression

* difficulty concentrating, particularly in school

* recurrent ear infections

* wheezing, difficulty breathing, asthma

Getting Diagnosed

If you suspect your child has allergies, a doctor's visit is in order. Don't attempt to self-diagnose allergies. Although whatever is ailing your child may respond well at least temporarily to home care, you want her to have an otherwise clean bill of health and rule out more serious issues.

Your child's doctor may order "scratch tests" (where a tiny amount of different types of allergens are placed just under the topmost surface of the skin) or other tests to determine environmental or food allergies. For the scratch test, your child will need to return to the doctor so that she may determine whether a reaction has occurred at any of the sites. For food allergies, your doctor may also prescribe an elimination diet of basic foods, with one food group at a time added. You will then need to watch for reactions to any of the added foods.

For serious issues, a biopsy may be ordered, but this is generally a later resort. Most child allergies are diagnosed without a need for a biopsy or otherwise invasive test.

When it's Dangerous

More serious forms of allergies - for instance, a Latex allergy, or nut allergy - may potentially cause serious reactions, including anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening.

Don't panic. This is by far the rarer extent of reaction in either children or adults. However, if it is a concern, your child's doctor may issue an epi-pen (an injection of Epinephrine) - which immediately administers help to your child in the case of accidental exposure by reopening swollen airways - and will recommend strict measures to keep your child from being exposed to the allergen.

You will also need to educate your child on her condition and how to treat it in case of emergency. Depending upon her age and level of maturity, she may need help with this. Alert her teacher, friends and the parents of friends when she will be visiting their homes, as to her condition.

Home/OTC Allergy Treatment

In most cases, childhood allergy can be treated with over-the-counter medication, such as non-drowsy allergy tablets or liquid. 

If your child isn't responding well to OTC medications, her doctor may prescribe a medication for her.

In addition to medications if applicable, make sure you keep your home humidified (buy a humidifier if things are too dry), clean and free of dust. Don't smoke inside the home and if possible, don't smoke at all; your child may react to particles that will remain on your clothes even if you smoke outside. Have a short-haired pet if you can or if allergies are severe, unfortunately, you may not be able to have a haired pet at all; buy a fish, a reptile or other pet your child can nurture and love without being exposed to irritating dander.

With a few extra measures, your child can be happy, productive and playful...and irritant-free.