A little girl sneezing from allergies.

Common Allergic Reactions in Children

Allergies can develop at any age and exhibit a number of symptoms, but a lot of them develop early in life. Being aware of the signs can help your child’s physician determine the cause of the allergy, so your child will be able to avoid the trigger or treat it with allergy shots. Not all allergies are life-threatening, but some potentially can be, particularly peanut, shellfish, and insect sting allergies. As a precaution, when trying a new food (especially common allergens), only give your child a small amount of it at first, just in case they have an allergy. Most of the time, an allergic reaction starts out pretty mild, so its best to familiarize yourself with the symptoms so you can catch it as soon as possible.

Food Allergies

The most common food-based allergens include milk, eggs, fish/shellfish, peanuts/tree nuts, soy, and wheat. Symptoms of these allergies may be mild and hard to detect at first, like a slightly upset stomach, but they may increase in severity if the exposure continues. Some of the moderate symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, hives, and a rash. If you notice any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible to schedule an allergy test and be sure to avoid any food your child has eaten that day. If your child has a severe allergy, they could possibly have a reaction from simply being in the same room as that specific allergen. Severe symptoms consist of swelling of the throat, tongue, or lip, wheezing, difficulty breathing, and loss of consciousness. If your child shows any of these symptoms, call an ambulance or drive them to the hospital immediately. Allergies are sometimes hereditary, so if there is a history of severe allergies in your family, you probably want to keep an Epipen and some Benadryl on hand at all times.

Environmental Allergies

Environment-based allergies are fairly common in both children and adults, but they can often be mistaken for a cold. Since cold and environmental allergy symptoms are similar, it can be difficult to tell what your child is suffering from. Thankfully, most of these allergies are pretty mild. The best way to determine the cause of your child’s runny nose, itchy eyes, and sneezing is to keep track of how long it persists. Colds don’t often last more than ten days, so if the symptoms last longer, its probably allergies. Common environmental allergens include pollen, dust/dust mites, pets, mold, cockroaches, and insect stings/bites. Many of these allergies can be controlled through the use of daily antihistamines, like Claritin or Zyrtec, but you should always check with your child’s doctor before starting him or her on a daily medicine. Insect stings/bites can possibly be life-threatening, so if your child starts swelling around the sting/bite or has trouble breathing, bring them to the emergency room right away.

Last Updated: October 18, 2016