Causes of Allergies in Children and How to Prevent It

Allergies in children are generally genetic. This means that children are at risk of having allergies if one or both parents suffer from allergies. Therefore, for children who are at risk of allergies, it is important to prevent them from developing allergies before they show allergy symptoms.

The immune system is tasked with eradicating foreign objects or substances that are considered dangerous, such as germs, viruses, and toxins, when these objects or substances enter the body.

However, in allergy sufferers, the immune system overreacts to certain substances or objects that are actually harmless. This condition is quite often experienced by children and can be of various types, such as peanut allergy, dust allergy, drug allergy, or milk allergy.

Increase in Allergy Cases Worldwide

The incidence of allergic cases in children has continued to increase in recent years. A study published in 2019 showed that around 30–40% of people worldwide have allergies and most cases of this allergy are found in children.

The increase in the incidence of allergy cases is thought to be caused by several factors, including heredity or family history of allergies, environmental influences, and diet.

If your child is allergic to a substance, the allergic reaction will recur when he is exposed to that substance. Substances or materials that can trigger allergies are called allergens. The type of allergen in each allergy sufferer can be different. Therefore, you need to know what allergens trigger your little one's allergic reactions so that they can be avoided.

Some of the Factors that Cause Allergies in Children

The exact cause of allergies is not known. However, there are a number of factors that are thought to increase a child's risk of developing allergies. One of them is heredity.

Children who have a father or mother with a history of allergic diseases can have an allergy risk of up to 30–50%. If both parents suffer from allergies, then the risk of children experiencing allergies can reach 60-80%.

This happens because the genetic traits in parents that cause the immune system to overreact and easily appear allergic symptoms can be passed on to their children.

Apart from genetic factors, there are other factors that are also thought to increase the risk of children suffering from allergies, such as a dirty environment, air pollution, and certain diseases, such as infectious diseases, asthma, atopic dermatitis, and atopic rhinitis.

There are many types of allergens that can trigger allergy symptoms, including dust, animal dander, insect bites, and several types of food and drink, such as cow's milk, eggs, and nuts.

Allergy symptoms that appear in each child can also be different. Mild allergy symptoms may include itching and redness of the skin, runny nose, or sneezing. Sometimes, allergies in children can also cause diarrhea and vomiting.

Although rare, severe and fatal allergic reactions can occur. This severe allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis and can cause symptoms such as sudden weakness, shortness of breath, wheezing, loss of consciousness or fainting. Children who experience these symptoms need to be immediately taken to the nearest hospital.

How to prevent children from getting allergies

Until now, allergies can not be cured. However, there are several ways that can be done to prevent your little one from getting allergies (especially for children who are at risk of allergies and have never experienced allergies), namely:

1. Detecting the risk of allergies in children

The main step that moms and dads can take to prevent your little one from getting allergies is to determine how big the risk is of getting allergies. This step is important so that the child does not experience an allergic reaction in the future.

As discussed earlier, a child is at risk of developing allergies if both parents have a history of allergies or allergy-related diseases, such as asthma, atopic eczema, and atopic rhinitis.

If Mom or Dad has allergies, then your little one will likely have allergies too. To be sure, Mom and Dad can take your little one to the pediatrician for an allergy test.

2. Exclusive breastfeeding

Several studies have shown that exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of a child's age can reduce the risk of a child experiencing allergies. This is thanks to the nutrients and antibodies in breast milk that can prevent allergic reactions.

3. Giving special formula milk

In addition to exclusive breastfeeding, you can also give your little one milk that is specially formulated to reduce the risk of allergies in children.

One type of formula that is recommended for children who suffer from allergies is partial hydrolyzate formula, which is formula milk with protein content that has been specially processed so as not to trigger allergic reactions. In addition, the protein content in milk is also easier for children to digest.

When giving formula milk products to your little one who has a risk of allergies, you can choose formula that is enriched with synbiotic content, namely prebiotics and prebiotics that function to support the growth of good bacteria in the little one's intestines.

Examples of good probiotics for your little one are Bifidobacterium breve (B. breve), while prebiotics are usually found in milk containing FOS (fructo oligosaccharides) and GOS (galacto oligosaccharides).

Synbiotics are not only good for maintaining a healthy digestive tract, but can also prevent your little one from getting allergies.

4. Give MPASI gradually according to age

The introduction of complementary foods (MPASI) in infants needs to be done gradually according to their age. If done too early or too late, the risk of allergies in children can increase. Complementary feeding is generally recommended when the baby enters the age of 6 months.

Allergy trigger factors in each child can be different. Although allergies can be inherited from parents, allergy triggers in children are not necessarily the same as allergy triggers in their parents. To find out what triggers your little one's allergies, you can take your little one to the pediatrician for an allergy test.

If you want to understand more about allergies in children and their prevention, you can ask your pediatrician or attend health seminars on this topic, for example at the PCAA program or Child Allergy Prevention Week, which is held to commemorate World Allergy Week.

Events such as Child Allergy Prevention Week are usually filled with competent people in their fields with the aim of educating parents about allergy prevention from an early age.