What are the signs of allergies in children?

Written by: Dr Ramnik Mathur
Published: | Updated: 17/01/2019
Edited by: Jay Staniland

Allergies can affect people at any age, and symptoms present differently in different age groups. For example, a baby who’s only given milk, then develops dry skin or eczema, starts to vomit after every feed, becomes very irritable, becomes constipated or has runny stools, or sometimes passes blood in the stool, can be displaying symptoms of milk allergy. Here we explore the different kinds of symptoms a child may exhibit, and what allergy they may be an example of. 

For food, it’s very obvious. If a child eats a particular food, for example a peanut, and starts developing redness around the face, an itchy throat, starts to vomit or sometimes has difficulty in breathing, it is a very clear symptom of allergy.

There can be some situations in which the allergies are a little more difficult to diagnose, where the child may have gastrointestinal symptoms like chronic diarrhoea, or may have very dry skin, in which case the child may be allergic to something, which will have to be tested to confirm.

The child may have hayfever and may be allergic to pollen. That again has to be tested to confirm that the child is allergic to pollen which might be causing the hayfever.


Can you grow out of an allergy?

This depends on what kind of food allergy you have, for example, an allergy to milk. There can be two types of milk allergy, IgE mediated and non-IgE mediated. 

Non-IgE mediated allergy is usually grown out of by the time you’re one to two years of age. If its IgE-mediated milk allergy, then it can take up to 10 years before you grow out of it.

Egg allergy is usually grown out of between the ages of seven to eight years of age. Nut allergy is a difficult one, the chances of outgrowing nut allergy are not so common. If you have a peanut allergy, which is a legume, then the chances of growing out of that are 1 in 10 or 10%.

While if you have a tree nut allergies like hazelnut, cashew nut, or Brazil nut, then the chances of growing out of it are only 1 in 20.


Treatment of allergies


There is something called immunotherapy which is currently being tested. Immunotherapy is something where we give you the substance you’re allergic to in small quantities and we expect you to develop a tolerance.

The treatment is mainly symptomatic. If you have eczema, then we use emollient and steroids and obviously, the main treatment is avoidance of the allergen. If you are allergic to milk, then we have to try a different type of milk which does not have the cow’s milk protein in. If you’re allergic to a type of nut, then you avoid those nuts. If you’re allergic to house dust mites, then you keep the house as dust mite-free as possible.

The treatment in terms of medication is dependent on the symptoms. If you have asthma, then it’s treated with inhalers such as relievers, which have bronchodilators which help to dilate the lungs, and preventers, which are usually steroids.

The mainstay of treatment is antihistamines, as histamine causes a lot of problems related to allergy. We take antihistamines like Piriton which is chlorphenamine or cetirizine or fexofenadine. If you have real difficulty in breathing, which is called anaphylaxis, which can cause collapse, the treatment is via adrenaline, which has to be given intramuscularly.

Children with nut allergy who have had breathing problems usually carry what we call an adrenaline auto-injector, like an epipen, which is lifesaving.

If you are concerned about allergies in your child, make an appointment with a specialist here.

By Dr Ramnik Mathur

Dr Ramnik Mathur is a leading London-based paediatrician. Practising at a number of reputable clinics in the capital including the Clementine Churchill Hospital he specialises in allergies including asthma, eczema and food allergies and common paediatric problems such as excessive crying, reflux, vomiting, poor weight gain, recurring infections, chronic coughs and diarrhoea. He runs courses for both doctors and nurses and holds weekly general paediatric, allergy and baby clinics.

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