Baby Allergies: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments and Tips

When the immune system responds inappropriately, or considers a harmless substance as a virus, bacteria or parasite, an allergic reaction is triggered. The body can sometimes react to substances like pollens or some foods as harmful and release antibodies to fight them. The presence of these antibodies then causes swelling or tissue inflammation.

Sometimes parents do not realize that these symptoms could be allergic reactions and pass them off as cold, infant acne, stomach upset or even as a fussy baby. These could be short-lived symptoms including runny nose and crankiness as well. However, it should be noted that these may not always be an allergic reaction.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Baby Allergies?

The signs and symptoms of the allergic reactions depend on the age of the baby and also the organ where the symptoms are manifested.

  • Skin. Allergic reactions appearing on the skin are usually rashes or hives with red welt marks. These very common reactions are itchy and raised.
  • Digestive system. The symptoms can vary from nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps to diarrhea.
  • Nose. When the allergens are inhaled, they cause very common reactions like runny nose and sneezing. Nasal allergies can result in hay fever and allergic rhinitis which causes red and watery eyes and cough as well.
  • Other symptoms. Other symptoms include Asthma which causes rapid and shallow breathing, wheezing and dry cough.

When to See a Doctor

If you feel that the symptoms displayed by your baby are caused by any allergens or if you feel the presence of allergens around the baby, you should inform the doctor. In case of severe allergic reaction, you should immediately call emergency medical help team.

Symptoms of severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis should be informed to the doctor. If you baby has had any such reaction in the past, it is important to inform a doctor who specializes in allergies and immunology. The complete evaluation, diagnosis, long term management of anaphylaxis is complicated and hence, critical.

What Are the Causes of Baby Allergies?

The substance which causes an immune reaction in the body is called an allergen. The body regard this allergen as a harmful substance incorrectly and causes the release of chemicals like histamines to fight them. These chemicals cause irritation in the body and other symptoms like runny nose, sneezing, itching, coughing and rashes.

The symptoms can be mild or severe, seasonal or ongoing if the exposure to the allergen is ongoing. The baby can be exposed to the allergen by touching it, breathing it, eating it or even via injection.

When the allergic reaction is very severe, it can result in an anaphylactic shock, which causes difficulty in breathing and swelling and can be life threatening.

Common Allergens

Allergen

Description/Examples

Food

The most common food allergens are milk, fish, shellfishes, nuts, wheat and eggs. Common symptoms include asthma, hives, vomiting, diarrhea and swelling around the mouth. Reaction can be seen within minutes of consuming the foods. It is best to avoid these foods or take anti-histamines or steroids for treatment. In extreme cases epinephrine injections should be given.

Drug

Some people are allergic to certain medications like penicillin or aspirin and the symptoms are quite similar to food allergies. It could be mild or life-threatening like hives, itchy eyes, congestion, swelling around the mouth and throat. In case of cough or lung congestion, bronchodilators can be given. Other treatment would be anti-histamines or steroids and epinephrine for extreme cases

Latex

Latex gloves and certain medical devices can trigger latex allergy in people. The symptoms include skin redness, itching, sneezing, coughing, wheezing, breathlessness, watery eyes, hives and even gastrointestinal problems. Contact with latex products should be avoided and antihistamines and steroids can be taken.

Insect sting

Insects like bees, fire ants, yellow jackets, hornets and wasps can cause allergic reactions. Everyone will have swelling, itchiness and redness on insect sting. People who are allergic which exhibit symptoms like nausea, fatigue, fever and even anaphylactic shock. Epinephrine shots are given in such cases. Anti-histamines can be taken to relive pain, swelling and itching.

Animal dander and cockroach

Animal dander, proteins present in oil glands secreted by animal skin including cockroaches can cause allergic reactions. They may take years to subside and include symptoms like sneezing, congestion, itchiness and watery eyes. Avoiding exposure, antihistamines, decongestants, nasal steroids are helpful when dealing with this allergy. Dander allergy can be avoided by washing the pets weekly and keeping them off the furniture.

Dust mite

Dust mites are microscopic organisms that thrives in house dust. It can trigger allergic symptoms that are yearlong instead of seasonal. Treatment includes antihistamines, decongestants or nasal sprays. Keeping the humidity below 45% helps. Using hypoallergenic pillows, washing sheets in hot water, using dust mite covers are also helpful.

Pollen

Pollen grains can cause reactions like hay fever or seasonal allergies. It will result in symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, watery eyes etc. Anti-histamines like Benadryl, Allegra etc. can be taken. Oral and nasal decongestants can also be administered. Allergy shots or immunotherapy can also be given. Staying indoors on windy days or using air-conditioning is an option.

Mold

Molds are similar to pollen. However, they are fungi spores and are found in damp areas like basements, bathrooms, grass, leaf piles, hay, mulch and under mushrooms. This is a seasonal type of allergy and using masks helps to avoid any triggers. Symptoms are similar to pollen and dust mite allergies.

What Are the Treatments for Baby Allergies?

  • Avoid Allergens

Avoiding anything that is known to cause allergy in the child is the most important part of allergy management. Family members and child care providers should be informed of any such allergens and be kept away from the child. Switching to hypoallergenic products and removing any foods products like peanuts can be helpful.

  • Use Medications

Medications like antihistamine help to relive the itching, hives and runny nose which may occur during an allergic reaction. Doctors can also prescribe daily medication to avoid and control allergy. Giving OTC medicines without the doctor’s advice should be avoided. Immunotherapy can be tried where small amounts of the allergen are administered to desensitize the child.

Tips on Avoiding Allergens

Exposure to commonly found allergens can be minimized by:

  • Using dust mite proof covers on mattresses and pillows
  • Keeping your pets away from the house for a week
  • Getting rid of feather pillows
  • Using hypoallergenic laundry detergents

Watch the video to know how to tell what allergy your baby has: