So, hands up who’s ever been faced with the classic, ‘it wasn’t like this in our day’, comment from their parents, AKA your kids’ grandparents?! Yes, we hear you, and we actually hear them too; because it does seem that child allergies, be it to dust, the environment or certain foods, are on the rise. We chat to Dr. Foong Tsin Uin from IMC, who explains more.
Why do you think allergies in children are on the rise?
Childhood allergies have been on the rise over the last 10 years. Childhood eczema and food allergies (or intolerances, as the milder cases are called) are definitely more common nowadays, even in the younger children. This is probably caused by a combination of factors including environmental pollutants, the larger picture of what goes into our food chains, as well as genetic factors. Sometimes we are unable to be precise or identify the cause, which understandably can be frustrating.
Eczema, asthma and hayfever are three conditions which are linked. If either parent has one of these conditions, the child has a higher tendency to develop any one of the three, not necessarily the same condition as the parent. If there is a higher risk for allergies, weaning babies onto solids should start at six months. Some babies and indeed the parents themselves will be told that they were weaned around four months old. The change in guidelines in recent years was largely fueled by the increase in cases of allergies, as it is believed that slightly delayed weaning could possibly reduce the development of allergies.
What do we need to be aware of about asthma and eczema in kids?
Asthma cannot be formally diagnosed in a child under the age of six as their lungs are not fully developed until then. There are children who will develop a wheeze and behave like a child with asthma each time they get a common cold. They will be given treatment for asthma, but it does not necessarily mean they will go onto developing asthma. Equally, if a child has asthma, it is imperative to have a clear treatment plan, as preventer inhalers must be used regularly even when the child is not unwell. Also, asthma attacks can happen quickly so awareness is crucial.
Eczema is also more common. The mainstay of treatment is sufficient and appropriate use of emollients (moisturisers). Topical steroid treatments might be prescribed, but should not be the only treatment used. Allergy tests might be useful for some children if the condition is severe and the control of symptoms are difficult but there are limitations to those tests as well. I find eczema education is very important in getting the patient and parents to understand the condition and improve compliance with treatment.
Tell us a little more about your qualifications.
I have an interest in skin conditions and have obtained a Diploma in Dermatology from Cardiff University. During my practice in the UK over the last decade or so, I saw many children with all these conditions and have managed them effectively.
At IMC, we have a holistic approach to our patients and have the expertise to discuss the advantages and limitations of mainstream and well alternative remedies that patients might have explored. What I find frustrating is the limitation of emollient supply and advise on treatments to stock up back in the UK!