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Pediatric allergies are often dismissed as “no big deal.” Yet, allergies in children cause about two million missed school days every year.

Pediatric allergies can range in severity, depending on the child and the allergen. Some allergies are life-threatening, whereas mild allergies may go away with time.

However, nearly all allergies reduce your child’s quality of life. Whether your child is bothered by hay fever every year or allergies make his/her asthma symptoms worse, you should never let allergies go untreated.

At the Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center, we strongly encourage early identification of childhood allergies. We believe getting a diagnosis and care plan will boost your kid’s well-being and minimize any risks down the road.

Contents

What Are Pediatric Allergies?

Child allergies occur when the immune system tries to fight off a “false alarm.” Typically, the body’s defenses protect against threatening substances, including viruses, bacteria, and foreign bodies.

In the case of allergies, the immune system defends itself from harmless substances, called allergens. Common allergens in children may include dust, pollen, mold, pet dander, certain foods or even medicines.

As the immune system fights off these harmless substances, it releases antibodies that in turn release chemicals into the bloodstream. These chemicals, especially histamine, lead to allergy symptoms.

Ultimately, allergies can appear under a wide range of circumstances. Children may get allergies during specific times of year or from certain allergens. Some reactions may be mild, while others may require urgent medical attention.

woman reading to child with allergies

Child Allergy Symptoms

Allergy symptoms in children vary greatly depending on the type of allergy and the individual’s severity of response. Remember that allergic reactions can occur anywhere in the body, though they most typically affect the ears, eyes, skin, stomach, nose, throat and lungs.

Common allergy symptoms in children include:

  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing or coughing
  • Red, itchy, watery eyes
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Itchy ears
  • Red, itchy, dry skin
  • Hives, rash, or welts
  • Throat tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Stomachache
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

In addition to these symptoms, allergic reactions can make asthma or eczema symptoms worse. Because certain allergens can trigger asthma flare-ups, it’s essential to avoid contact with them.

Finally, while most allergic reactions are simply irritating, they can also be life-threatening. Kids with severe allergies, especially to certain foods or medicines, may experience anaphylaxis within seconds or hours of being exposed to an allergen.

Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that triggers breathing problems, low blood pressure, vomiting, fainting and even death. If you suspect anaphylaxis, you should seek urgent medical attention.

Common Pediatric Allergy Triggers

Knowing what triggers your child’s allergy symptoms is key to avoiding reactions. Here are common allergy triggers to look out for:

  • Dust: Dust allergies are caused by microscopic dust mites. Kids with dust allergies may experience worsening symptoms after sweeping or vacuuming.
  • Pollen: Pollens from grass, tree, ragweed and weeds can cause hay fever. Typically, allergic reactions occur when plants bloom and are pollinating – i.e. from spring to fall.
  • Mold: Mold is commonly found in areas like your basement, bathroom, kitchen, backyard and more. When these microscopic mold spores become airborne, kids may have an allergic reaction.
  • Pets: Pet allergies arise from the proteins in a cat or dog’s urine, saliva, or dead skin cells. Kids may inhale pet allergens from clothing, household furniture, carpets and more.
  • Cockroaches: Like dust mites, cockroaches’ saliva, feces and shedding body parts can cause allergic reactions.
  • Other insects: The venom in the stings of bees, wasps, hornets, yellow jackets, and fire ants can cause allergic reactions. In rare cases, allergies to these venoms may be life-threatening.
  • Medications: Prescription, over-the-counter and herbal medications can create drug allergies. Allergies may range from mild symptoms to life-threatening complications.
  • Chemicals: Some household cleaners, insect sprays, cosmetics, hair dyes and other personal care items may result in allergic reactions.
  • Latex: The latex protein, which is found in natural rubber, can cause allergic reactions. Latex may be found in diapers, pacifiers, toys, balloons, computer parts and more.

Be sure to watch for these allergic triggers in your kids. While this isn’t a complete list, these allergens are some of the most common.

child eating peanuts

Pediatric Food Allergies

In addition to the allergic triggers listed above, food allergies also impact kids. Allergic reactions to food can be mild such as a stomachache, or they cause more severe symptoms, including breathing problems and anaphylaxis.

Common Pediatric Food Allergens

Some foods cause allergic reactions more frequently than others. You should pay attention to the common food allergens below and always check the food label.

The allergens below account for 90% of food allergic reactions in children:

  • Milk: Milk causes allergic reactions due to the proteins found in cow’s milk.
  • Eggs: The proteins in egg whites and/or yolks may cause allergic reactions.
  • Fish/shellfish: The proteins in fish and shellfish can cause allergic reactions.
  • Peanuts/Tree nuts: Peanuts are the most common food allergy in children. Kids who are allergic to proteins in the peanut bind can have a reaction if they consume peanuts or peanut-derived products, including certain oils, butters, and candies.
  • Soy: Soy proteins can also cause allergic reactions in children. Foods that contain soy include soybeans, soy sauce, tofu and more.
  • Wheat: Kids may also have allergies to proteins found in wheat products.

Cross-Reaction Allergens

Besides these common food allergens, some kids may experience cross-reactions. For example, kids who are allergic to latex may also experience reactions to eating avocado. That’s because the proteins that make up latex and avocado are similar in nature. You should watch out for common cross-reactions to avoid any unexpected allergic reactions.

Diagnosing Child Allergies

Allergies in kids are sometimes easy to detect, especially if you have a suspicion about the allergen triggering a reaction. However, other allergies may be more difficult to identify without testing.

To diagnose child allergies, you should talk with your pediatrician or an allergist. He/she will typically perform a skin test or a blood test to identify allergens.

  • A skin test is done by placing a diluted allergen onto the skin and scratching the area. If allergic, the child’s skin will show a red bump. Sometimes an allergist may instead inject the allergen under the skin and see the body’s response. Either way, results are ready within minutes of testing.
  • A blood test identifies an individual’s antibodies. This test may be recommended for kids with severe allergies or certain health conditions. Generally speaking, a blood test will measure the antibodies present and identify the substances a child is allergic to. This test is more expensive and takes longer than a skin test.

Your pediatrician or allergist will perform one or both of these tests, in addition to discussing your child’s symptoms.

Child Allergy Treatments

Unfortunately, pediatric allergies can’t be cured. To minimize reactions, it’s important to manage symptoms in your child.

Avoidance is the best treatment for allergies, so you and your child should plan how to avoid contact with the allergen. For example, you should shut your child’s bedroom window during days with high pollen counts. This goes for your home, but also your child’s school and any friends’ houses.

If allergy symptoms persist, your pediatrician may also prescribe medicines. These may include antihistamines, decongestants (such as tablets, nasal sprays and eye drops), asthma medications, allergy shots and creams. Medicines should always be determined by your child’s doctor.

Ultimately, your child’s care plan will be customized according to his/her allergies and needs. Your pediatrician or allergist will diagnose your child’s situation and create a care plan for avoidance, as well as any necessary medicines.

child seeing pediatric allergist

When to See a Doctor

Letting allergies go untreated can be dangerous. If severe allergies aren’t controlled, they can cause asthma attacks and life-threatening symptoms.

However, even mild and moderate cases can benefit from getting tested. Knowing what allergens are triggering reactions can be crucial to avoiding them. In addition, your pediatrician may identify allergens that you didn’t know about.

As a rule of thumb, if allergies are affecting your child’s quality of life, it may be time to see an allergist.

Why Choose Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center

At Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center, we help patients Breathe, Live and Thrive. After seeing one of our board-certified physicians, patients often feel like they “get back their lives.”

Not only do we have a high standard of expertise and care, but we’re also 100% dedicated to improving patient quality of life. We advocate for children with asthma and allergies by raising awareness and providing top-of-the-line diagnostic and therapeutic services.

It’s no wonder that we are the area’s largest asthma and allergy practice – and continue to positively impact patient’s lives. Contact us today to learn more about our services or schedule an appointment.

 Pediatric Allergies FAQs

At what age can a child take allergy medicine?

Generally speaking, children can safely take allergy medicines at age two and older. That said, some allergy medicines are approved for use in children as young as 6 months, according to the FDA. You should always check the medicine label to make sure the product is appropriate for your child’s age and follow dosage instructions accordingly.

Can children outgrow allergies?

Yes, children can outgrow allergies – though not all do. Outgrowing an allergy will depend on the child, the type of allergy and the level of severity. For example, 60-80% of children with milk and/or egg allergies will outgrow the allergy by their teens. Other food allergies (such as shellfish) or seasonal allergies (such as hay fever) are typically lifelong.

Can a child have a fever with allergies?

No, allergies don’t cause fever in children. If your child is experiencing a fever with allergies, it’s due to something else – likely a viral or bacterial infection. Remember that during allergies, your child’s immune system may be more vulnerable, so it’s possible he/she picked up a cold or infection while fighting allergies.

How do I know if my child has allergies or a cold?

You can know if your child has allergies or a cold by looking at the symptoms. While allergies and colds share some symptoms – such as a runny nose, cough, and sneezing – there are some differences. A cold may be accompanied by a fever and general fatigue, while allergies may make your child’s eyes red and itchy. Remember that cold symptoms rarely last longer than two weeks, so your child may have allergies if symptoms last longer.

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