This is a fantastic book written by paediatric allergy specialists at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children (also known as Sick Kids). I start by saying that in case, like me, you don’t realise how good this book is when you first pick it up, or in case you don’t have the time to read this review till the end – I get it, I have a toddler.
I have to say, the first time I read The Complete Kid’s Allergy and Asthma Guide, I wasn’t enamoured by it but by the second time around, I had read several other books on allergies, asthma and eczema, and realised how much this one stands out from the rest.
And here is why:
The Complete Kid’s Allergy and Asthma Guide (let’s just call it TCKAAG for short shall we?) explains everything from a simple but constant runny nose (rhinitis) to life-threatening allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) in very concise but easy to understand language.
The format of the book keeps it interesting. The paragraphs are short and to the point, broken up by text boxes with statistics or additional interesting facts. And those of you who read my posts regularly know that I love statistics and facts!
Unlike other books I have read that were published in the early 2000s – there seem to be many for some reason – most of the information is still relevant and up-to-date even 15 years later. I put this down to the authors being doctors at the forefront of their specialty, choosing to include not only advice that was current and accepted at the time but also cutting-edge research that proved otherwise (i.e. things that are now accepted by the mainstream).
For example, even though TCKAAG was published in 2003 when parents were generally told to refrain from introducing certain foods to babies until a specific age, this book cites European research at that time which advised introducing highly-allergenic foods as early as possible in order to avoid allergy. This is what was recommended by health authorities across the world in 2017, a decade and a half later.
There is a lot of confusion about allergies and most people who think they have a food allergy, don’t. This book explains difference between adverse food reactions i.e. food poisoning, an intolerance and an IgE-mediated allergy involving the body’s immune system, making it easier for parents to understand what’s happening.
In case you’re wondering what ‘IgE-mediated’ means, there is actually a brief explanation in TKAAG of the four immunoglobulin antibodies – A, G, M, and E. It also outlines different allergy tests, including dubious ones like that many parents spend hundreds of dollars on but have no scientific basis. Nonetheless, the book is not judgemental and leaves it up to the reader to decide which tests they would like to trust.
It even debunks common myths about allergies like the risk of death from peanut dust on airplanes. Yes, it’s a myth.
There are, however, a few outdated ideas in the book that could easily be updated if the book was republished. Just so you are aware, priority food allergens have changed and allergic individuals are advised to carry an epinephrine auto injector like EpiPen with them at ALL times and not only if they are 20 minutes from a hospital.
In addition to explaining allergies, TCKAAG also has good concise explanations of asthma, skin conditions including atopic dermatitis and contact dermatitis. It mentions common triggers, what you can do to control your environment to minimise your exposure to them and medication. Prevention is better than cure, and this book covers both.
This book attempts to address some psychological and practical issues of living with allergies and even though it doesn’t do an amazing job at getting to the nitty-gritty anxiety that allergic families feel, it offers courage.
Living with severe life-threatening allergies and asthma can be hard, but TCKAAG likens it to riding in a car – it is risky and there can be fatalities if we are not careful, but instead of stopping our children from ever entering a motor vehicle and being constantly afraid, we teach them to buckle their seatbelts and follow certain rules. The same goes for allergies.