Like many medical problems related to the immune system,allergies can manifest starting at a very young age. There is a phenomenon called “the allergic march” which describes the progression of allergic disease from infancy to young adulthood.
The Allergic March
The allergic march begins in infancy with atopic dermatitis or eczema , an itchy crusting red rash usually found on the face, neck, elbow creases, and behind the knees. While the exact cause and mechanisms of atopic dermatitis are still unclear, it is known that food allergy to common foods like milk, egg, soy, peanut, fish, or wheat, among others can trigger or aggravate the rash in up to 30% of children. In older children and adults, airborne allergens like dust mites and pollen can also aggravate eczema. Other triggers include infections, emotional stress, and irritants that rub against the skin. Up to three fourths of children with atopic dermatitis whose parents also have allergic problems go on to develop allergic rhinitis and allergic asthma. Treatment consists of avoidance of food and other allergy triggers, moisturizers, and corticosteroid creams.
By age 3, the child’s immune system has matured sufficiently to begin reacting to airborne allergens. He or she may start sneezing, having itchy eyes, runny nose, and nasal congestion during the seasons or year-round, which are the typical symptoms of allergic rhinitis. With continued allergen exposure and no treatment, as he or she reaches late childhood, the child can then develop cough, wheezing, and shortness of breath, which are typical symptoms of asthma. Untreated allergic rhinitis and asthma can lead to more severe complications in later life such as chronic sinusitis and lung disease. Early diagnosis, avoidance of allergens, and treatment with antihistamines, corticosteroids, will control symptoms and decrease severity. Studies have shown that allergen immunotherapy in children reduces symptoms and prevent development of asthma.
Link: Preventing Childhood Allergies
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