Dr Ian Pollock answers your questions on childhood allergies.
Tags:What are Childhood Allergies,childhood allergies,Dr Ian Pollock,parenting tips,simplymediatv
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Nina Sebastiane: It seems then ever increasing number of children in the 21st century are suffering some form of allergy. Doctor Ian Pollock, Consultant, Pediatrician at the Barnet & Chase Farm Hospitals is here to answer questions on allergy and allergic disorders and what can be done to combat them. Doctor Pollock thanks for joining us today. What is allergy?
Dr. Ian Pollock: An allergy is the body reacting against something that is essentially harmless. If you got an infection, your body reacts against it, it does all sorts of things, you have symptoms and that’s useful but if it react something that’s harmless it’s an allergy. For example, pollen, pollen doesn’t hurt anybody, but some people react to it, get quite sick with the problem of reacting.
Nina Sebastiane: Okay, so lots of people know this including myself. Now in a child, is this more serious?
Dr. Ian Pollock: I think it’s very troublesome and it can be very serious, in fact, we have seen all sort of allergy in very young children and some allergies actually get better as children get older. So, pediatricians see a lot of allergy and young mothers who have children see a lot of allergy disease.
Nina Sebastiane: Has it increased, would you say in Britain?
Dr. Ian Pollock: It’s increased in the westernized economically better of world. There is something we do in our modern life and it’s not clear what it is, the something or somethings we do that tends to produce more allergic disease.
Nina Sebastiane: Okay. Now, give me a list of some of the allergens that affect children in particular?
Dr. Ian Pollock: Well, particularly food, I mean children consume sorts of food and they try out new foods that’s a normal part of babies and child experiences. So, foods are common thing. Animals and pets, lot of children come to contact with cats, dogs, birds and other interesting animals and pollen, not so common in young children, even dogs more often, but certainly pollen does occur, house dust mite for example, we are living in houses now, which seem to be very nice places for house dust mite to live and babies come into contact with them without obviously knowing.
Nina Sebastiane: Why should parents be looking for to, if they notice their child is sensitized in some way, what way does it manifest itself?
Dr. Ian Pollock: Sometimes it’s obvious and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes the obvious sort of reaction would be the first time or second time the child consumes a new food, they develop an immediate reaction and that could be swelling or skin rashes and sort, the lips might swell, they might get puffy eyes, they might cough, wheeze, vomit, things happen very quickly when they first come into contact with the food. More difficult that happens later and sometimes get rashes that are day or so later and that’s harder to think about, but essentially as rashes, vomiting, sudden reactions that you can’t explain in other ways.
Nina Sebastiane: I know obviously in small children, you know spit out their food and have vomiting attacks or say something quite mild, you know that’s quite regular in small children, but you know when should a parent be worried?
Dr. Ian Pollock: That’s a difficult question really. As you say, many children vomit, small vomits, we call possets, are quite common. It probably matters, if it happens new a child hasn’t vomited before and he do something different in vomiting or some other symptoms starts, if it’s severe it happens a lot and it’s frequent and if it’s effecting the child, if they are becoming ill for example, not putting weight properly because of the vomiting that put hint there might be an allergy. Got to be careful because all of these symptoms can be from all sorts of other cause. So big question your child vomits, it doesn’t mean it’s got to be an allergy and it could be some other illness.
Nina Sebastiane: How do you workout what’s causing the problem?
Dr. Ian Pollock: Well, I think it breaks down to easy way is which anybody would recognize it and harder ways of trying to recognize the connection. The easy recognition is if on the history talking with the parent, the story fits together. First time, something happens there is a reaction, second time there is a reaction, third time, by the time reactions happened several times, you are getting pretty sure there maybe a connection, also, if it’s a likely connection, you know milk, egg are common allergens that cause problems. So, it’s quite likely that’ll be a problem thus otherwise we can get on to testing of some sort.
Allergy test is difficult. There isn’t actually a perfect allergy test, particularly foods. In some situations, an allergy test can be helpful and it can be very useful, particularly, in that immediate sort of reactions when we’re talking about where you eat something, something happens very quickly.
For example, if a child ate a peanut, the lips swelled up and they vomited, they don’t usually vomit, an allergy test could be very helpful in that situation and there is basically two ways that we do allergy tests, one is basically skin and blood test, which is a very easy painless way of testing for allergies on a child’s skin and other way is by taking a blood sample and sending that off to the lab to do an allergy test looking for particular antibodies but both very simple and similar sorts of tests.
Nina Sebastiane: Now once you’ve identified that your child has a specific problem, I mean can you cure an allergy?
Dr. Ian Pollock: Like most of medicine, we have actually not very good at curing thing, it’s disappointing. What we can say about allergies is a lot of them tend to get better with time, so as your child gets older or that they may grow out of asthma; certainly, may grow out of eczema, which tends to improve and if your child has an egg or milk allergy and all sort of those children get better as they get older.
We have drugs and treatments that actually improves the child’s life immensely, they come with a quality of life much better, make them sleep better, exercise, have less itching, but actually not very good at actually curing it.
Nina Sebastiane: Okay. How early can you be proactive with a potential allergy, so say for example, your family has a history of some kind of allergic reaction to something, what can you do?
Dr. Ian Pollock: Terribly good question. In reality, lots of researches looking that at the moment and we really don’t have a definite very good answer, we know that somethings were important, exposure to the baby when it’s in the womb during pregnancy probably has in fact.
Nina Sebastiane: Okay.
Dr. Ian Pollock: So, the biggest thing to tell mothers is not to smoke.
Nina Sebastiane: So, if you know for example, you know sensitive to nuts yourself, obviously, stay clear them be extra careful.
Dr. Ian Pollock: We have great difficulty that is what the guidance is at present and the present guidance from the government is to avoid nuts and some foods in pregnancy. We actually don’t really know if that definitely works. The real answer is breast feeding is probably a good idea, an exclusive breast feeding for six months has lots of benefits and it probably has some benefits for eczema and allergies, but it’s not that powerful, it’s certainly, you certainly see parents who mothers who breastfeed and their children have eczema and other problems. So, it’s not that easy.
Nina Sebastiane: Well, let’s run through some of the most frequently asked questions. For example, what’s the most effective way of getting rid of dust mites, which are a big allergen?
Dr. Ian Pollock: It’s actually very hard to get rid of house dust mite from houses very well, you can cut it down but one of the things you have to do is there is some bedding material which you can purchase which is covers the mattresses, pillows and duvets, which tend to keep the dust inside, you can get materials that don’t have so much dust in your house, which is hard materials and instead of having thick carpets, curtains, thick sofas, it’s actually pretty better and maybe cheap to have hard floors, just wooden floors to have blinds or no curtains, fluffy toys are a problem.
If you look at fluffy toys that babies have they have house dust mite on them and the couple of tricks you can do with that one is to put teddy bears and things in the fridge, probably once a week overnight and that tends to kill house dust mite.
Nina Sebastiane: That’s a great piece of advice, I’ve never heard that one.
Dr. Ian Pollock: Well that’s might did not work the other old things is if you take carpets and put them on the line outside and bash them as what is bashing dust out and expose it to sunlight and that also kills house dust mite.
Nina Sebastiane: Good, old carpet beating does the trick.
Dr. Ian Pollock: So there is something in that.
Nina Sebastiane: Okay. We talked about what problems allergies cause eczema, asthma, hay fever and have -- does it ever get linked to anything like bad behavior for example, if a child has an allergy or behavioral problems.
Dr. Ian Pollock: I think behavior is a difficult subject and I think we will recognize it the children behave goodly or badly for all sorts of reasons. What they eat, in terms of an allergy probably has not very much to do with it. I think there are some situations, but some foods, clearly can change a child’s behavior and you can imagine if a child drinks lots of Coca-Cola, but it’s got caffeine in that stimulate some oddest behavior, so it’s not surprising that they might not sleep and be very agitated, but that’s not in an allergy, anybody would react like that if they drunken half of it.
Nine Sebastiane: Will my child grow out of an allergy?
Dr. Ian Pollock: I think it depends on how serious it is and what sort of allergy, but if we’re talking about food allergy, egg and milk, if we’re talking about eczema and often the children do get better as time passes, so if your child of six months or a year and they’ve got a problem with eczema. There is a good chance that it would be better by that time three, four and five years of age because some shorten times.
Nina Sebastiane: I want about reintroducing foods that they’ve been sensitized to. How do you go about doing that?
Dr. Ian Pollock: It depends on how serious the problem is, if it’s a mild problem and there has been some little bit of vomiting and nothing much else, it’s very reasonable just to try it as is often and I think a parent can do that.
Nina Sebastiane: Because also children have little rashes or something come up don’t know and that’s about it.
Ian Pollock: If it’s a mild symptom, it’s pretty safe to try it later on. We have to be careful because there are some children that have much strong reactions and moment all its when discussed that with somebody professional before reintroducing a new food and that person could either be a health visitor, GP or pediatrician if it’s a serious or worrying problem.
Nina Sebastiane: One common question is, is it possible for my baby to become allergic to my own breast milk?
Dr. Ian Pollock: It is possible and it’s not actually the breast milk itself, the mother’s milk that was in it. So for mother is drinking cow’s milk and the baby has a severe cow’s milk allergy, there is enough breast milk, there is enough cow’s milk coming through in the breast milk for the baby to get a reaction.
Nina Sebastiane: Okay. So the answer is possibly yes.
Dr. Ian Pollock: Possibly yes than anything that people realize sometime ago and it’s some of the early allergy work and extra research didn’t realize that, which is why people get confused.
Nina Sebastiane: Another question for you here. My toddler seems to be allergic to the dog, but we don’t want to get rid of it. What can we do?
Dr. Ian Pollock: Difficult one. The first thing is actually discuss with somebody whether the connection with the dog and the child’s reactions are real, so in that situation an allergy test might be useful. If the allergy test was negative that was it’s just but not doing anything. If the allergy test is positive, think you have to see how severe that the reaction and the problem is.
Nina Sebastiane: Pooch.
Dr. Ian Pollock: It’s a bit difficult.
Nina Sebastiane: It is difficult, the toddler or the dog and what about immunization and allergies, a lot of parents are concerned that you know immunization can bring on allergies?
Dr. Ian Pollock: Well, there is very little if no evidence that immunization causes more allergies and that was a worry because in the western world we have more allergies and in the western world we’ve been immunizing a lot more, but in fact the evidence is that immunization insane as cause some allergies and they even get a little bit of protection. The other worry, which I think you are asking me that is if your child has got an allergy because they have their immunization and if I that probably seems very safe even if your child has egg allergy that’s probably a case of immuno.
Nina Sebastiane: Well, Doctor Ian Pollock thank you so much for coming and laying some of our fears today.