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Allergies can be inconvenient, or downright dangerous. Knowing what causes them, what the reactions are and how to manage them is important.

Sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes are all symptoms of allergies. Of course, symptoms can be a lot more varied, from hives and swelling to difficulty breathing, diarrhoea and stuffy noses. Symptoms can also be far more serious, with a severe reaction leading to anaphylaxis.

There are so many causes and triggers for allergies. Children playing outside can have a reaction to pollen, or insect bites and stings. Dog or cat hair could trigger a reaction. As could dust mites, mould and food, such as nuts, wheat, eggs, milk, shellfish or soy.

Avoidance precautions

If you know what’s causing an allergic reaction in you or your child, you can avoid the source. It may not always be easy to avoid items such as wheat or eggs, and anyone can get stung by a bee, but you can take precautions.

  • Read food labels and warnings carefully and check for any foods that will trigger a reaction. Certain sauces may use shellfish, sausages often contain wheat, and cereals and other snacks may be made in a factory containing nuts.
  • If you’re eating out, ask the waitron or chef whether any dishes contain allergens. If you or your child have a severe reaction to shellfish, you may even need to avoid dishes that are prepared in the same area as prawns or other shellfish.
  • Make sure your child’s school and their friends’ parents are aware of any allergies, especially for playdates and parties.
  • Carry medication with you, and know where the nearest emergency rooms are situated.

Simple solutions for common allergies

Hay fever is difficult to prevent, but medication can help ease the symptoms, for example antihistamines, decongestants or corticosteroids. Speak to your doctor about what will work best for you or your child.

Eczema is often associated with certain allergies and triggers. It causes a red itchy rash on the skin, with small bumps, and can ooze and crust over. It can be managed by avoiding certain triggers, such as harsh soaps, dust mites or even hot weather. You can also use mild soaps, get a humidifier, and use an effective moisturiser. For severe eczema reactions, speak to a doctor about other treatments.

You can take preventative steps, especially for allergies to dust mites or pet hair. Clean your carpets regularly, wash toys, and clean beds, cupboards and bookshelves often, to get rid of dust and other triggers.


If you don’t know what is causing an allergic reaction, particularly a severe reaction, you can get your child tested. This will help you know what triggers to avoid, and could offer a solution through a course of treatment, such as medicine, to manage the allergy, or immunotherapy.

Tamlyn Vincent