Kids and allergies can be a complicated combination. First, there are all kinds of allergies that people can suffer from: environmental allergies, seasonal, and of course the dreaded food allergies. But how do you know if your kid's symptoms are allergy-based or the result of something else, like a virus or an infection? Some of the signs your kid is developing allergies can actually be pretty easy to miss, especially if your child hasn't suffered from allergies before.
I checked in with several pediatric allergy experts to see what they had to say: allergist, immunologist and creator of Hello, Peanut (a product to help parents safely introduce peanuts to thier babies) Dr. David Erstein; allergist and immunologist Dr. Lakiea Wright; allergist Dr. Pruvi Parikh with the Allergy & Asthma Network; and Dr. Jeffrey S. Rosenbloom an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist of Alamo ENT in San Antonio.
Some of these symptoms are the classic tell-tale signs of an allergic reaction, but others aren't so obvious, so they can be easy for parents to miss. Kids of all ages can develop allergies, starting at only a few months old, but they "may present at any age," says Dr. Erstein. He explains that allergy symptoms "can be sudden (like with food allergies) or gradual (for example, eczema or nasal issues) or both (like with asthma symptoms)," but it really depends on the child. Some of the most commons allergies kids experience are "plant pollen, food (like peanuts, eggs, milk and milk products), insect stings, mold, dust mites, pet dander and medications," says Dr. Wright. While certain children might outgrow their allergic reactions to milk and eggs, other allergies, like those to nuts, tend to remain.
Helping your child identify the allergen can help get them back to feeling like themselves again, which is important, because allergy symptoms can be brutal. If you suspect allergies are responsible for your child's issues, there are simple tests that can be done to determine what it is they're allergic to, says Dr. Wright, from food to dust mites to mold to animal dander and more.
While food allergies are less common than environmental allergies, Dr. Parikh says they can be very severe. The most typical culprits are milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish, she adds, and symptoms can include a rash, itching, swelling that may or may not be accompanied by breathing issues, vomiting, diarrhea, and even loss of consciousness.
When it comes to treating allergies, one option is to take your child to an allergist who can actually "help build tolerance via gradual exposure to the allergen," explains Dr. Erstein, adding that with environmental allergies, allergists can provide immunotherapy injections or sublingual tablets. As for food allergies, "some practitioners have begun to help increase tolerance through oral immunotherapy," Dr. Erstein adds. "Additionally, a couple of medications should be available in the near future to help those suffering from peanut allergies."
Exciting news for the many kids who suffer from peanut allergies (which, for the record, tend to be very obvious). For developing sensitivities with less obvious symptoms, these are the signs to look out for.