How to spot one in your child

Think your child might have an allergy? They are not alone. (Getty Pictures)

The number of children seeking treatment for an allergy has increased sevenfold in 15 years, according to a new study.

And with only four times as many clinics as in 2006, they are struggling to keep up with demand.

A whopping 40% of children have been diagnosed with an allergy in the UK, the four most common being food allergy, eczema, asthma and hay fever.

Most outpatient wards (not admitted to hospital overnight) are quite small and have varying resources to offer services such as allergen immunotherapy, which may involve giving your child a small amount of the something he is allergic to every day, like peanuts.

Read more: ‘Cake crumbs almost killed my son’: Mom lives in constant fear for her allergic son

A young boy with a packed lunch pulls out his anaphylaxis auto-injector.  (Getty Pictures)

It’s important to see a doctor if you think your child has an allergy so they can receive the proper treatment to keep them safe. (Getty Pictures)

One theory behind the increasing rates of allergy and asthma diagnosis is the “hygiene hypothesis.” This means living conditions can be too clean, as germs can be helpful in training the immune system to differentiate between harmless and harmful irritants.

Other factors such as the increasing use of antibiotics, obesity, vitamin D deficiency due to too much time indoors and even cesarean births have been linked to the increase in the conditions.

Allergies affect more than one in three young Britons, costing the NHS more than £1 billion a year, according to the study’s corresponding author, Dr Michael Perkin, of the University of London.

Boy with asthma.  (Getty Pictures)

Is your child coughing, tight in the chest, short of breath or wheezing? They might have asthma. (Getty Pictures)

Although similar research by the British Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (BSACI) was already carried out in 2006, it is neither 100% complete nor up to date.

“We have therefore undertaken the first comprehensive survey of all UK hospitals to determine which provide a pediatric service [children] allergy service and what that service is all about,” says Dr. Perkin.

The intent of the survey is also to act as a kind of signpost, or place to store useful information, “so that healthcare professionals and patients and their families can identify the location of services. suited to their needs”.

“Furthermore, by identifying areas where inconsistencies exist, the information can be used to assist in the publication of national standards for pediatric allergy services, similar to those for adult allergy services,” adds Dr. Perkin. .

He explains that the results will allow individual services to identify with other pediatric allergy services and can help to make decisions about how the services will operate and what developments are needed.

Read more: How to spot if a cough is coronavirus or hay fever

Based on the analyzed data, the researchers produced an interactive online map showing the location and services provided by the 154 hospitals registered as receiving children requiring allergy treatment.

“Quality standards already exist for other pediatric sub-specialties, such as gastroenterology (including stomach, intestines and liver), and similar standards production and accreditation for pediatric allergies will ensure that children with allergic conditions receive consistent, high-quality care, regardless of their geographic location.”

So the research will hopefully help families and their children access the standards of care they need, no matter where they live.

To know when your child might need treatment, it can also help to be aware of the signs of allergies.

Child with hay fever.  (Getty Pictures)

Hay fever symptoms will likely last much longer than a cold. (Getty Pictures)

How to tell if your child has an allergy

Food allergy

Food allergies are more common in children from families where other members suffer from allergies, while babies who suffer from eczema are more at risk of having food allergies.

Symptoms of an immediate food allergy in children, according to Allergy UK, include:

  • A red face, hives, a red, itchy rash around the mouth, tongue or eyes (which can spread all over the body)

  • Mild swelling (especially of the lips, eyes and face)

  • A runny or stuffy nose, sneezing and watery eyes

  • Nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea

  • An itchy or itchy mouth and throat

More serious symptoms of anaphylaxis (a severe reaction to a trigger, such as an allergy) include wheezing or chest tightness, swelling of the tongue and throat (constriction of the airways), sudden drop in blood pressure leading to shock and dizziness, confusion, collapse, loss of consciousness and sometimes coma.

This requires urgent medical attention.

Read more: Severe allergic reactions: what to do if your child goes into anaphylactic shock


Eczema in babies often appears between three and six months, but can also develop right after birth, usually affecting the face, neck, body, arms and legs. As the child grows, it is more likely to be seen in the creases around the neck, knees, wrists, elbows and ankles, but may be more prevalent.

The main symptoms, also recommended by the association, are:

  • Intense itching

  • Dry skin

  • Eruption

  • Redness

  • Inflammation


A combination of asthma symptoms makes the condition more likely. Try to keep track if your child is experiencing any of these issues:

  • Cough (does not go away or keeps coming back / at night or early in the morning / after exercise, when excited)

  • Wheeze (high-pitched whistle)

  • Tight chest (they might describe it as a “tummy ache”)

  • Shortness of breath (see how fast they breathe and listen to the sound of their breathing)

Watch: The difference between coronavirus and hay fever symptoms

Hay fever

Hay fever symptoms can include:

  • sneezing and coughing

  • a runny or stuffy nose

  • itchy, red or watery eyes

  • itchy throat, mouth, nose, and ears

  • loss of smell

  • pain around the temples and forehead

  • headache

  • earache

  • Feeling tired

You may also notice that your child’s asthma is getting worse. Hay fever is more likely to last for weeks or months, rather than one to two weeks like a cold.

See a GP if you think your child might have an allergy, for the best advice, before they show more serious symptoms.

You can also find the interactive map produced by the Googling Pediatric Allergy Services Map study.

Additional SWNS reports.

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