The Most Common Baby Allergies

Kathleen Marshall
May 4, 2015

Is your baby suffering from allergies? Here's what to look for.

If your little one is suffering from an on-going runny nose, you'll feel a little more in control (and less puzzled) if you know what you're dealing with. Is it baby allergies or the common cold? Sometimes it's hard to know if your baby is suffering from allergies or something else.

Part of the problem with diagnosing seasonal allergies, for example, is distinguishing them from a common cold. A good rule of thumb, according to KidsHealth, a pediatrician-led nonprofit focused on improving the health of children, is that if it clears up in seven to 10 days, it's likely a cold. Sneezing, coughing and a runny nose that last longer than this most likely indicate an allergy. Another sign to watch for is the color of your baby's nasal discharge. If it's clear, your baby probably has allergies. Yellow or green discharge may indicate a cold.

Non-Food Baby Allergies
Common causes of allergies, as stated by the American Academy of Pediatrics' site HealthyChildren.org, include:
 

  • Dust
  • Fungi
  • Pets
  • Clothing or toys made with animal hair
  • Bacterial enzymes
  • Latex
     

The most common symptoms of allergies are a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, coughing, sore throat and itchy eyes. Eczema can be another symptom. In infants, eczema is most common on the cheeks, forehead and scalp. In older babies, at around six to 12 months, it typically shows up on the knees and elbows. The main symptom of eczema in infants is red, weepy patches of skin. In older babies, the skin is usually red and dry.

These reactions can be triggered by allergies to dust, pet dander, certain fabrics, fragrances in laundry products and cigarette smoke, according to the National Eczema Association. While there is no cure for eczema, it can be treated. Be sure to discuss your baby's symptoms with your doctor to help your baby feel better fast.

Food Allergies in Babies
About six percent of children under age 3 suffer with food allergies, according to KidsHealth. "Food allergies are the most common cause of allergies in babies," says Dr. Manish Ramesh, an allergist and director of the Food Allergy Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. As far as diagnosing them, he says, "Food allergies occur rapidly after your child eats the food they're allergic to.

Usually symptoms occur within minutes of eating the food, and most of the time they occur within half an hour of eating the food. Your baby might develop hives or swelling, difficulty breathing, vomiting or, in severe reactions, may pass out." Those are severe reactions -- the allergy might also show itself as just a rash around the mouth.

Food allergies can be very serious. "If an allergen is suspected, parents should bring the baby into an allergist/immunologist as undiagnosed food allergies can be dangerous," says Dr. Purvi Parikh, an allergist and immunologist with The Allergy & Asthma Network in Vienna, Virginia. Call your pediatrician the first time you notice any reaction in your child.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), one of the 27 institutes and centers of the National Institutes of Health, lists the following as common foods that cause allergies in babies:
 

  • Eggs
  • Cow's milk
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts
  • Wheat
  • Soy
     

KidsHealth also lists fish and shellfish as common food allergens for children. Milk and soy allergies in babies may be suspected if a baby throws up formula. Other allergies may start to show up when your baby gets older and starts on solid foods. It is important to keep track of your baby's reaction to new foods and let your doctor know if anything unusual occurs.

"Depending on the symptoms, the treatment varies from antihistamines to asthma medications to topical medications or even injectable epinephrine in severe cases," says Dr. Parikh. The NIAID reports that kids usually outgrow allergies to soy, milk and eggs, but, unfortunately, peanut allergies tend to stick around.

Seasonal Allergies in Babies
Is your baby sneezing in the springtime? "Seasonal allergies are rare in infants but increasingly frequent with age," says Dr. Ramesh. "Most babies do not develop environmental allergies prior to age 2 because their immune systems are still developing," explains Dr. Parikh. So you should probably look for another cause of your baby's sniffles.

Kathleen Marshall is a freelance writer and the mother of five children. She has had many runny noses to wipe and hopes her experience is helpful to new parents.

For more on runny noses, read Poor Baby! Runny Nose Again?

* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.

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