How Do I Know if My Child Has an Allergy?

Pediatric allergies produce unpleasant symptoms that can even be life-threatening for children and young people. Find out how you can tell them apart.
How Do I Know if My Child Has an Allergy?

Last update: 18 August, 2021

Allergies in children are a very common condition during the first years of life. Some researchers estimate that it affects up to 35% of children, with a prevalence that hasn’t stopped growing in recent years. Its symptoms can be confused with those of colds, flu, and other conditions, so knowing if your child has an allergy can be a difficult task.

As a reference, we recommend consulting with a pediatrician who specializes in allergies. But, aside from that, we’re going to show you what you should most be aware of and the most common types of childhood allergies.

Characteristics of allergies in children

The first thing you should know is that allergies occur when the patient’s immune system overreacts to the presence of a trigger. In children, these reactions are more frequent and acute because their system is still developing.

Often, if your child has an allergy, you need to discover if the trigger comes from indoors or outdoors. Although the symptoms are identical, the triggers differ.

Despite the fact that all children are prone to allergies, studies indicate that, in the following cases, the chances are higher:

  • Children with poor breastfeeding
  • Childhood obesity
  • Exposure to passive or active tobacco smoke during pregnancy
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Premature birth
  • Growing up in areas with a high percentage of contamination

The development of pediatric allergies is believed to be multifactorial, and so it’s unlikely that a single cause on the list is responsible for the reactions. There’s strong evidence that immunoglobulin E-mediated food allergies can be triggered by nutritional habits and taking antibiotics during the early stages of growth.

Apart from this, the important thing is that you learn to identify the distinctive allergy patterns in your child. In this way you’ll know whether it’s a cold, flu, or any other type of respiratory or skin condition.

Allergy test in a child.
A consultation with a specialist is necessary to determine the precise cause of your child’s allergy.

Types of allergies in children

There are many types of allergies in children. Parents should be attentive to the most frequent ones. We’re going to show you four variants.

1. Atopic dermatitis

This is also known as pediatric eczema. It develops through an itchy rash.

It’s the most common allergic manifestation during childhood, most often during the first months. In this regard, Children’s National points out that it appears between 3 and 6 months after birth.

You can distinguish atopic dermatitis by the appearance of red spots, scales, or rashes that come and go intermittently. They’re usually worse at night and are accompanied by itching. It usually concentrates on the face (cheeks and forehead) and scalp, and then spreads to the elbows, torso and knees.

As with all types of allergies, this condition isn’t contagious. Studies suggest that it affects between 10% and 20% of the pediatric population. Rashes get worse after intense scratching.

2. Food allergies

Food allergies in children and young people occur after the introduction of solid food in the diet, although sometimes cases occur due to the assimilation of breast milk. Researchers note that 90% of episodes are due to the following triggers:

  • Cow’s milk
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Nuts
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Fish
  • Seafood
  • Crustaceans
  • Cephalopods

Due to cross-allergic reactions, symptoms can also develop after ingesting peanuts, tree nuts, legumes, sheep’s and goat’s milk. Johns Hopkins Medicine reminds parents that food allergies are different from intolerance.

The mediation of a specialist is very important in order to determine the presence of one condition or another, as the allergy in your child could even be life-threatening. Keep track of the foods that trigger skin and allergic reactions, so you can establish which food is causing them.

3. Rhinitis

Also known as hay fever, some studies indicate that it can have up to 40% prevalence among children. However, only a handful of cases are diagnosed, as it’s often mistaken for a cold.

It’s more common in school-age children, as this is the time when they’re away from home most. Allergic rhinitis occurs when the immune system overreacts to pollen, mites, mold, animal dander, and other triggers.

You can distinguish it from a cold because it doesn’t generate a fever and its duration is inconsistent. It can happen without notice, last just a couple of hours, or go on for weeks. It’s more frequent during the seasonal period, with a higher prevalence in the spring.

4. Asthma

Asthma can have many triggers, but, during childhood, most cases are due to allergic reactions. Yale Medicine estimates that it affects just over 8% of the population.

It can be triggered by interaction with mold, pets, pollen, or mites. It’s usually worse at night and is distinguished by wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath.

This respiratory condition can also be caused by exercise or infections, so parents must learn to distinguish patterns. Some studies suggest that up to 48% of pediatric asthma patients achieve remission by the time they’re 12 years of age.

To achieve this, however, it’s important to detect the presence of the condition and start its treatment. As with the other manifestations, part of the therapy is to detect and isolate the triggers.

Asthma in a girl with an allergy.
Asthma in children that’s treated from an early age has a chance of remission.

When to seek medical assistance if my child has an allergy?

Early detection of allergies in children is very important in order to improve the prognosis of the condition. If the symptoms that we’ve described lead you to think that they go beyond a simple cold or infection, then consult an allergist to begin the diagnostic process.

The sooner you do this, the more likely you are to detect the trigger and type of allergy. In turn, the specialist can initiate treatment aimed at reversing the symptoms. Remember that some of these can be caused by other conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, in the case of food allergies.

For this reason, you should avoid postponing the visit to your doctor, and take into account the risk factors we’ve outlined. There are many treatment options if your child has an allergy, including immunotherapy. This treatment has a good chance of decreasing the severity over the years.

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