As with adults, babies and children can have allergies. They may be allergic to the food they eat, the things they touch, and the invisible particles they breathe at home or outside. And when your baby has any symptoms, it can be difficult to understand what’s wrong because a little baby cannot identify those symptoms.
There are many specific allergies a baby can have, but these can generally be divided into one of three categories:
- Food and medicine
Allergic reactions to food or medications usually occur soon after a product is consumed. They can be either very mild or life threatening.
Environmental allergies can be things that touch your baby’s skin, such as inhaled detergent or dust in clothing. Environmental allergies can affect your baby year-round.
However, seasonal allergies are often a problem at certain times of the year or in certain locations. They tend to originate outdoors from trees and other plants growing in the area. The term “hay fever” is sometimes used to describe these allergies.
Allergy Symptoms in Babies and Children
An allergic reaction occurs when your body’s immune system reacts abnormally to things that are normally harmless. Symptoms of an allergic reaction can vary greatly depending on the person and the type of allergy.
Babies are much less likely to have different types of allergies than older children and adults because you need to be exposed for a while before you become allergic to certain things. For example, seasonal allergies are rare in babies because they don’t live for one or two seasons with high pollen counts. Most types of respiratory allergies are rare before the age of 1-2.
Food and Drug Allergies
The symptoms of a food or drug allergy may appear within a few minutes or an hour or two later. Some drug allergy symptoms, such as a rash, may not appear for a few days.
The most common symptoms of food and drug allergies are:
- Hives or rash
- Wheezing or shortness of breath
Food allergies can also cause nausea, vomiting, or abdominal pain. In some cases, your baby’s lips or tongue may begin to swell.
A potentially fatal reaction to a severe food or drug allergy is a condition called anaphylaxis. It occurs when exposure to an allergen triggers the overproduction of certain body chemicals. These chemicals can shock you. Blood pressure will also drop significantly and the airways will narrow, making breathing difficult.
Severe food allergies for children are the most common causes of anaphylaxis, but in rare cases medications like antibiotics and aspirin may be responsible. Bee stings and other insect stings or bites can also cause anaphylaxis.
Anaphylaxis in infants is rare and almost always due to cow’s milk protein allergy.
Environmental allergies in Babies and Children
While not common in infants, allergies to dust, pets, mold, pollen, insect bites and other things in the environment can trigger allergy symptoms affecting the head and chest, such as:
- Red and itchy eyes
- Cough, wheezing, and chest tightness
- Runny nose
Your baby may also develop hives, rashes or itchy bumps if their skin is exposed to an allergen or something they’re sensitive to.
Shampoos, soaps, detergents, and similar products are common triggers for a reaction called contact dermatitis.
The main symptoms of seasonal allergies, often caused by plant-based allergens, are similar to environmental allergy symptoms and can include:
- Itchy or watery eyes
- Runny nose
If your baby shows these symptoms only at certain times of the year, they may have seasonal allergies.