Common Allergies in Kids to Watch Out For
Your Child Is Not Alone
An estimated 50 million people have allergies, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. These allergies usually show up in infancy or childhood. Allergies can get in the way of your child’s ability to sleep well, play normally, and function in school. Here’s what to look out for and when, and how to determine if your child’s symptoms may signal an allergy.
The prevalence of skin and food allergies jumped between 1997 and 2011 in children, the CDC says. The rate of respiratory allergies, the most common type among children, remained stable during this period. You may see skin symptoms in your little ones, and your older children may tend to hack and wheeze. The CDC data shows varying prevalence by age, with younger children more likely to have skin allergies, and respiratory allergies more prevalent among older children.
In an allergic reaction, an overly sensitive immune system kicks in to defend against what is considered a normal substance, acting as if it’s fighting off a foreign invader. The culprit can be food, pet dander, or pollen from grasses or trees. The allergen, or offending substance, may trigger a host of reactions. Keep a watchful eye on your child for these signs and symptoms.
The Basic Signs
If you suspect that your child has allergies, watch to see if runny, itchy, red, or swollen eyes persist beyond a week or two. The same goes for a runny nose. Is it chronic? Does your child say that their mouth or throat itches or tingles? Do they scratch their ears? The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that these may be allergy symptoms, possibly of hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, the most common form of allergy among children. Note the timing, too. Do these symptoms appear at the same time of year each year?
Check Skin for Allergies
The skin—the body’s largest organ and part of the immune system—will sometimes react in protest to an allergen. Check your child’s skin for eczema, which shows up as dry, red, scaly patches that itch. Watch for hives, which may signal an allergy. These red welts on the skin can range in size from tiny (the size of a pen tip) to very large (as big as a dinner plate) according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Hay fever or other allergies can affect your child’s breathing. If you hear a noisy wheeze when your child breathes or if you notice rapid breathing or shortness of breath, have your child checked by their pediatrician. A dry, hacking cough with clear mucus is another sign of allergies. Observe your child at play carefully. If they seem to tire easily or more quickly than other children, this may signal that allergies are involved.
Tummy Problems and Other Signs of Allergies
Allergies can set off intestinal symptoms in children. If your child often complains of stomach cramps or has repeated attacks of diarrhea, this may be an allergy clue. Other signs of allergies in children can include headache or excessive fatigue. Allergies can also affect your child’s behavior, producing unusually crabby or restless moods. Consider keeping a symptom log to share with your pediatrician. Note the symptom and what happened right before onset (pet exposure, foods eaten, etc.).
The Allergy Gang of Eight
According to the Mayo Clinic, these eight foods contribute to 90 percent of food allergies:
- almonds, cashews, walnuts, and other tree nuts
- fish (bass, cod, flounder)
- shellfish (crab, lobster, shrimp)
In addition, some children can’t tolerate citrus fruits. You may have to become a food label detective to confirm a possible link between something your child has eaten and allergy symptoms. The connection isn’t always obvious. Traces of peanut can lurk in cereals, and soy can hide in flavorings or thickeners found in processed or frozen foods.
The presence of household pets can provoke allergy symptoms in children, including both furry friends and shorthaired animals that don’t shed. It is not the pet itself that causes allergies—rather, it is the dander, dead skin cells, that can cause them, as well as saliva, urine, and fur. If your child sneezes and wheezes after playing with or holding a pet, consider having them tested for animal allergies.
Your pediatrician can help you sort out whether your child’s symptoms are allergy-related, and can assist you in formulating a management plan. Easing skin, respiratory, or intestinal allergy symptoms may require antihistamines or other medication. You can teach your child strategies to avoid or decrease exposure to allergens that trigger the reaction. These may include passing up certain foods, playing outdoors when pollen counts are lowest, and washing hands right after touching a pet.
- Children’s Allergies. (2010). American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Retrieved August 22, 2013, from http://www.acaai.org/allergist/allergies/children-allergies/Pages/default.aspx
- Food allergies: Understanding food labels. (2011, January 4). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved August 22, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/food-allergies/AA00057
- Hives. (2013). American Academy of Dermatology. Retrieved August 22, 2013, from http://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/e---h/hives
- Jackson, K.D. et al. (2013, May). Trends in allergic conditions among children: United States, 1997–2011. NCHS Data Brief, 121. Retrieved August 22, 2013, from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db121.htm
- Pet allergies: Causes. (2013, May 22). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved August 30, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pet-allergy/DS00859/DSECTION=causes
- Trigger Avoidance. (2010). American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Retrieved August 22, 2013, from http://www.acaai.org/allergist/liv_man/trigger_avoidance/Pages/default.aspx
- When Pets Are the Problem. (2013). American Academy of Pediatrics. Retrieved August 22, 2013, from http://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/allergies-asthma/Pages/When-Pets-Are-the-Problem.aspx