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Children with angioedema

Abdominal pains, cramps or swellings of the arms or legs occur quite frequently in children and have many different causes. The occurrence of prominent swellings following falls or other minor accidents to which children are prone should, however, attract the attention of parents and medical providers. These symptoms may, in fact, be the first signs of hereditary angioedema (HAE). The following five symptoms, may point to this diagnosis:

  • Sudden abdominal pain without any recognisable cause
  • Severe cramping pains without any recognisable cause
  • Nausea and vomiting without any recognisable cause
  • Swelling of the arms or legs (e.g. after minor falls or blows)
  • Swelling of the mouth, neck or face (e.g. during teething)

Hereditary angioedema (HAE) affects boys and girls in equal numbers. The first signs of the disease frequently become manifest either around the age of five years or during puberty. Girls are especially impacted by the hormonal changes that occur during puberty: the increasing levels of oestrogens may trigger a noticeable level of symptoms or make pre-existing symptoms more severe. When HAE is suspected, it is important that your doctor obtains appropriate blood tests to confirm or exclude this diagnosis.

In order to help an affected child deal with swelling attacks as effectively as possible, parents should adopt a pro-active approach to their child’s illness. This includes:

  • The child’s caregivers and teachers must be informed of the disease.
  • Telephone numbers and other contact information of involved parties (parents, relatives, physician, HAE center or clinic) must be available for emergency reference to everyone working with the child.
  • Teachers and chaperones accompanying the child on outings, field trips and other activities should be provided with copies of the child’s emergency identification card, with emergency medications and, when necessary, with a letter from the physician or clinic.
  • In the case of longer trips, consider finding and contacting a local hospital or physician to discuss arrangements in an emergency.

Regular monitoring and documentation of symptoms in a swelling chart can help the child’s physician to develop an optimum treatment plan.