Skin allergies in children

Rashes happen from time to time, especially in dry weather. But rashes that don’t go away could be skin allergies.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the cases of skin and food allergies have increased in the past 10 years. Allergies are one of the most common medical conditions, but at an early age, these allergies can interfere with a child’s physical and emotional health. Learn about the different types of skin allergies in children and how to find the most effective treatment.



About 1 in every 10 kids will develop eczema. Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is an inflammatory skin condition characterized by red rashes that itch. It usually appears in children ages 1 to 5. Food allergies or environmental pollutants can cause eczema, but sometimes no cause is found.

Treatment: Standard treatment involves avoiding allergens and applying ointments and moisturizers. In extreme cases, your child may require prescription medication. Talk to your doctor if you suspect allergies. An allergist can help identify which allergens to avoid or which foods to eliminate.

Allergic contact dermatitis

allergic contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is a rash that appears immediately after touching an irritating substance. If your child develops an allergy to a substance, then he or she may have allergic contact dermatitis. The skin may look scaly, blister, or appear leathery from frequent exposure. Talk to your doctor if you suspect that your child’s skin is allergic. They can help identify the cause so it can be avoided.

Treatment: You can treat allergic contact dermatitis by:

  • avoiding the irritant
  • applying prescription steroid cream
  • healing the skin with medications
  • taking antihistamines to relieve itching


Hives are a severe allergic reaction that appear as red bumps or welts soon after coming in contact with the allergen. Unlike other skin allergies, they don’t have dryness or scales and can appear anywhere on the body. Some other symptoms can show as breathing difficulties or a swollen mouth and face. Seek medical attention immediately if these symptoms happen with hives.

Treatment: In most cases, hives will go away on their own, as long as you avoid the allergen. Your doctor may suggest taking an antihistamine to treat or prevent hives.

Causes of skin allergies

Allergies occur when the body negatively reacts to certain substances. These can include, but aren’t limited to:

In some cases, skin allergy symptoms show up when the skin comes into direct contact with an external substance. In other cases, the allergen may be ingested or inhaled. Signs may also appear in conjunction with other types of allergy symptoms, such as headaches, congestion, sneezing, and runny nose.

How do you find out what your child is allergic to?

Sometimes all your doctor needs to do is take a good history to help decide what your child should avoid. A good history is where your doctor listens to your concerns, ideas, and expectations. Your child’s history may be enough for the doctor to help suggest what to eliminate first.

If a test for allergies is needed, your doctor will usually do a patch test, or a skin prick test. The process involves the introduction of small amounts of allergens into the skin. If a reaction occurs, then your child may have an allergy to the substance. Your doctor will use various substances based on environment and family history. Sometimes a blood test is used for diagnosis, but these may be less accurate, particularly in very young children.

Not all skin reactions are allergic reactions. Your doctor can help determine the cause of your child’s skin reaction.

When is it an emergency?

In rare cases, hives can be part of anaphylactic shock. Anaphylaxis is potentially life-threatening and occurs almost immediately after exposure. Symptoms of this condition include:

Call emergency services if your child is experiencing anaphylaxis. Your doctor may also tell you to use an epinephrine auto-injector. Make an appointment with the doctor if your child has had a severe allergy attack and isn’t managing their condition.

Read more: Allergy first aid you should know »

How do you manage skin allergies?

Skin allergies happen at any age, but the CDC says they are most common in young children. Thankfully, severity tends to decrease with age. But it’s still important to address any unusual skin changes in your child early before complications ensue. Proactive measures are important in preventing recurring skin allergy symptoms in children.

Even if a rash goes away, it can come back if your child is exposed to certain triggers again. The best way to treat these allergies is to detect the cause early and prevent it from getting worse. Work with a pediatrician to make sure your treatment addresses all of your concerns.