Allergies are the most common chronic disease in children. If you, your spouse or your extended family have allergies, chances are good that your child will also have them. But how can you recognize if your child is suffering with an allergy or if it is something else?

Recognizing allergies begins with paying close attention to the symptoms and noting any potential triggers, or allergens. If you’re concerned about allergies, it can be helpful to track what your child eats and is exposed to, then share this information with your pediatrician during an office visit.

Symptoms of allergies can vary depending on the type of allergies your child has. Seasonal respiratory allergies commonly cause sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, runny nose, and ear problems, such as itching, difficulty hearing and popping. Some children with environmental allergies have increased ear infections.

In many cases, it can be difficult to tell the difference between seasonal allergies and a common cold, especially in a child who has never experienced allergic symptoms before. Here are a few differences between colds and allergies:

  • A cold is often accompanied by cough, fever, and body aches.
  • Allergies rarely include body aches or fever but sometimes include cough and sore throat.
  • In allergic reactions, mucus from a runny nose is typically clear, where it’s often thick and yellow during a cold.
  • A cold typically lasts from 3-14 days while allergies last as long as the child is exposed to the allergen, anywhere from days to months.

If your child has a skin allergy, you may see a red bumpy rash or even hives, red itchy welts that come and go. Insect bite allergies may also have redness, itching, and swelling at the site of the bite. In serious cases, insect stings can also cause anaphylaxis, which is a potentially life-threatening emergency and should trigger an immediate trip to the emergency room or calling for emergency medical services. Signs of anaphylaxis include:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Hives
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue, throat and face
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness

Food allergies present another set of symptoms, including vomiting, upset stomach, bloating, and diarrhea.  Severe symptoms can include swelling of the lips, tongue, throat or face, hives and tingling mouth. Like allergies to insect bites, severe food allergies can also cause anaphylaxis.

If you think your child has allergy symptoms, discuss them with your doctor for guidance on avoiding allergic triggers or even prescribe medication to alleviate the symptoms.

Reviewed by Dr. Kristie Rivers, November 2018

Takeaways

  • Allergy symptoms vary depending on the type of allergy.
  • Environmental allergies differ from a common cold in that they don’t include fever or body aches and can last as long as the child is exposed to the allergen.
  • Insect stings, food allergies, and allergies to medications can cause anaphylaxis.
  • Anaphylaxis is considered a medical emergency requiring immediate care.

References

  1. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Children’s Allergies.
  2. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Food Allergies
  3. Mayo Clinic. Allergies: Symptoms.

Comments

  1. I think my two year old may have allergies. The entire family got a cold over a month ago but her cough hasn’t gone away yet. I asked the doctor about it and it turns out that she had an ear infection but that wasn’t what was causing the cough. I take her back on Monday so I am going to ask more questions.

    Reply
  2. Great article. I think my youngest has seasonal allergies after reading this. He sneezes quite often and gets a runny nose which is clear every once in a while. He gets this usually when the weather changes drastically. It was muggy and warmer yesterday, and today it’s dry and a whole lot cooler. Guess who’s got a runny nose?!

    Reply
    1. I would recommend talking to your pediatrician about your son’s symptoms. Depending on his age and frequency/severity of symptoms, he may benefit from an allergy medication to make him more comfortable.

      Reply

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