Welcoming a child into the world is an exciting time for parents. However, new parents often lament that there is no guidebook for raising children. This becomes even more apparent when parents must confront illnesses that affect their children. It can be disconcerting when a child is affected by illness and parents feel helpless. Such feelings may arise when children’s allergies first present.

Just like adults, children can be sensitive to allergens in their foods or their environments. Cedars-Sinai says allergies affect the immune system. Allergic reactions occur when the immune system reacts to something generally harmless and responds as if it is a danger. The body attacks the allergen with antibodies, causing a number of reactions in the body.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says nearly one in five children has a seasonal allergy, more than 10% have eczema, and nearly 6% have a food allergy. Food Allergy Canada says almost 600,000 Canadian children under age 18 have food allergies.

Children may experience allergies differently than adults. The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology says some of the more common allergy symptoms in children include:

  • Skin rashes or hives (atopic dermatitis or eczema)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sneezing, coughing, a runny nose or itchy eyes
  • Stomach upset
  • Chronic nasal congestion
  • Ear infections, since allergies can lead to inflammation in the ear and may cause fluid accumulation
  • Itching in ears or the roof of the mouth
  • Red, itchy, watery eyes
  • A severe, life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis

Allergies can be caused by a number of things. The most common triggers are tree, grass, and weed pollens, according to Cedars-Sinai. Mold, dust mites, animal dander, bee stings, pests like roaches and mice, and foods also cause allergies. Children also may be allergic to medicines, which can be scary, as parents may not have any prior warning of an allergic reaction to a new medication.

Allergies can affect anyone, and parents who suffer from their own allergies may have children who also have allergies. Doctors are not sure why allergies tend to run in families. Also, allergic symptoms can happen slowly over time.


Parents who suspect their children may have allergies should discuss their concerns with a doctor for an accurate and complete diagnosis. Allergists typically use skin testing to confirm allergies. Liquid-form extracts of allergens are placed on the top layer of the skin through a pricking device. The skin will turn red where the test was applied if an allergen causes a reaction. Skin testing is usually faster than blood tests.

Treatment for allergies tends to involve avoiding common triggers. Immunotherapy and certain medications also may be advised. Always consult with the child’s pediatrician before administering any over-the-counter allergy medications.