Frequent symptoms like early morning sneezing, blocked nose, nasal itching and mouth-breathing among children should not be mistaken to be caused merely by common cold or infection.

It can be due to allergic rhinitis, which is being seen increasingly among younger children, contrary to the typical textbook description, according to paediatric pulmonology and allergy specialist, Dr. Srinivas Jakka, who is a consultant at a children’s hospital here.

Allergic rhinitis is normally seen in teenagers. “But it is not the case now. I am seeing it more and more in young school-going children,” he said. Observing that allergies were generally on the rise among children, he said the most common ones were asthma, eczema, urticaria (skin rashes) and those related to food. Compared to a decade ago, food allergies have increased.

Sometimes, drugs and insects too cause allergies.

In about 30-50 per cent cases, there could be a history of allergy among parents. In the case of asthma too, unlike in the past, symptoms akin to the condition were being diagnosed even in one-year-old infants. Normally, it manifests in those above two years. “However, we don’t call it asthma in infants because multiple symptoms mimic that condition. However, the fact that such children are responding well to asthma treatment makes one believe that they might become asthmatic later,” Dr. Srinivas added.

While eczema is caused mostly due to dry weather, around one-third of children with eczema are also vulnerable to food allergy. He said that eggs were eight times more likely to cause eczema than any other food.

While milk, nuts, sea food, including fish were commonly known to cause allergy in the West, fruits and pulses were also triggering the condition among children in India.

The problem of food allergies was seen more frequently in children of NRI families or those who returned after staying abroad for several years.

Dr. Srinivas said that hygiene hypothesis (less exposure to microbes during immune system development) before school age, changing lifestyle and pollution could be among the causes for increased incidence of asthma and other allergies among children.

While asthma anaphylaxis could be life-threatening, the other types of allergies could cause significant morbidity by affecting sleep and performance at school.

He said the prevalence of allergic diseases was rising dramatically worldwide, both in developed and developing countries.

The increase is especially problematic for children, who are bearing the burden of the rising trend. He said that the World Allergy Organisation (WAO) had predicted that that about 50 per cent of all children would have some sort of allergies by 2050 if the rising trend continues.