What to do if a kid has an allergic reaction

For a variety of reasons, a baby can have an allergic reaction. An allergic reaction happens when the body has an adverse reaction to a substance that is normally harmless, like a soap or a particular food.

Babies have sensitive skin and they are more likely to develop rash than adults. Even a slight irritation to the skin of a baby may serve to cause a rash.

Identifying the cause of the allergic reaction or sensitivity will help parents and carers prevent and treat any potential reactions.

Types

Babies can have a variety of different forms of skin rash, with a range of causes. Many allergic reactions may also cause additional symptoms, including nausea and vomiting.

In infants common forms of allergic reactions include:

Eczema

Eczema in kids
Irritating fabrics, soaps, and heat can lead to eczema outbreaks in babies.

Eczema is one of the most common skin disorders in children. Many forms of eczema occur, but atopic eczema is one of the most likely to affect babies and small children.

An eczema rash may consist of tiny red bumps, or the skin may look scaly and dry.

Doctors do not know why some people develop eczema and others do not, although this could be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Popular eczema outbreak triggers in infants include irritating fabrics, soaps and heat.

For older babies an eczema rash may look slightly different. Babies younger than 6 months appear to experience eczema-type rashes on the scalp, ears, and forehead according to the National Eczema Association.

The rash also occurs on the knees and elbows in infants aged 6 months to 1 year.

Papular urticaria

Papular hives is a localized allergic reaction to a bug bite. The reaction can be caused by bites from various insects including mosquitoes, mites, and bedbugs.

While it typically affects children aged 2–6, it may also occur in infants with papular urticaria.

Papular hives mimic tiny clusters of red bumps or bug bites. Some of the bumps may get filled with fluid. Papular hives can last many days, or even weeks.

Hives

If the body is allergic to a drug, a chemical called histamine is released which may contribute to the development of hives and other symptoms of allergies.

Hives are itchy, areas raised to the surface. They can vary in size and form but are generally red or pink with a thin red line.

Hives can grow on the body anywhere, and sometimes appear in clusters.

Food allergies

Food allergies in effect in baby
A baby can develop hives as the result of a food allergy.

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, about 6 percent of children aged 2 and under have food allergies.

Signs of a food allergy can involve skin reactions and breathing or bowel symptoms, such as:

  • hives
  • itching
  • coughing
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • blood in the stool

Babies can also sometimes have allergic reactions to foods before they start consuming them. This is because the person who breast-feeds them eating them may develop allergies to the foods.

The foods that children are most likely to be allergic to are:

  • milk and dairy products
  • peanuts
  • shellfish

Babies may be exhibiting signs of new allergies until they start eating solid foods.

Doctors also recommend that parents and carers introduce a baby one at a time to new foods. By this way it is easier to determine which food is responsible for the reaction if an allergy occurs.

Treatment

In babies not all reactions need medication. A slight rash, for example, is likely to disappear within a couple of hours and does not affect the baby during that time.

Nonetheless, care can be appropriate if the signs of a reaction are causing noticeable discomfort.

The treatment can differ by rash or reaction type. The following treatments can help, in general:

  • Avoiding triggers: Soaps, detergents, and scented lotions can often irritate a baby’s skin, so it may be best to avoid using chemical cleaners and to choose hypoallergenic products instead.
  • Washing with a fragrance-free cleanser: After using a mild, scent-free soap, pat the baby’s skin dry and avoid rubbing too hard, as this can irritate the skin.
  • Applying a moisturizer: Using a hypoallergenic moisturizer after a baby’s bath can help to prevent dry skin. Moisturizers also provide a barrier to protect the skin from irritants.
  • Using 1-percent hydrocortisone cream: Hydrocortisone cream can treat skin rashes relating to eczema or other allergic reactions. Although it is usually safe to use for infants for short periods, it is essential to speak to a doctor first.
  • Considering scratch mitts: Scratch mitts prevent a baby from scratching a rash with their fingernails. Too much scratching can injure the skin and lead to an infection.

Prevention

Allergic reactions in babies can not be avoided, but there are precautions that parents and carers may take to reduce the risk. Including:

  • washing the baby’s clothes in hypoallergenic detergent
  • using fragrance-free shampoo, lotions, and soap
  • washing the baby’s bedding in hot water every week to reduce the chance of dust mites
  • vacuuming frequently
  • introducing new foods one at a time

If a baby has an allergic reaction after breast-feeding, holding a dietary diary can be helpful in trying to determine the underlying cause. Dairy is a very common culprit, especially before the infant reaches the age of 1 year.

It can help to prevent consuming it food when breast-feeding after recognizing the allergen. It is safe, though, to consult with a doctor before making dietary changes.

When to see a doctor

A man seeking advice from a doctor about his baby
Seek medical advice if a rash worsens over time.

People at home are also able to treat allergic reactions in children. In certain cases, though, it’s safer to see a specialist.

A person should see a doctor if the rash spreads or worsens over time. This is also important to seek medical advice if there are signs of an infection on the skin, such as blistering, bleeding or flickering fluid.

A rash can in some cases mean another disease. When a rash occurs prior to the symptoms below, people should consult a physician:

  • fever
  • lethargy
  • poor feeding
  • coughing
  • excessive crying

Babies who develop allergic reactions involving wheezing, swelling of the lips or tongue, or breathing problems may require prompt medical attention. They may have an anaphylactic reaction, which may be extreme.

Takeaway

Allergic reactions and sensitivities are common in children, partially because their skin is so fragile.

These reactions are, in most cases, mild and can be handled at home by parents or caregivers.

Identifying the allergen may help mitigate potential reactions. Many babies will learn from their allergies, but when they get older, others will develop new allergies.

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