Allergies in Toddlers: Everything You Need to Know
Toddlers can slowly or suddenly develop allergies just like anyone else. Since toddlers are often being exposed to new foods and environments, they also are at a higher risk for allergic reaction since they’re unable to avoid unknown triggers. If your toddler has experienced symptoms such as consistent sneezing, coughing, and itching eyes or rashed skin, your child may have allergies.
If a child experiences more severe symptoms like anaphylaxis with difficulty breathing, it is important that you seek medical attention immediately as this can be a very dangerous and potentially fatal allergic reaction.
We’ll break down everything you need to know about recognizing, diagnosing, and treating toddler allergies to help them find freedom from symptoms.
Symptoms of Allergies in Toddlers
Identifying that your child has allergies early on can reduce the number of doctor’s appointments and missed school time spent dealing with symptoms, and help improve their quality of life faster.
Common symptoms to watch for that may be a sign of toddler allergies include:
- Red, watery eyes
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
- Itchy eyes and nose
- Allergic “shiners” and itching of the nose.
- Skin rashes or hives
- Difficulty breathing
- Upset stomach
- Frequent sinus infections
Common Toddler Allergy Triggers
Below are the most common triggers for toddler allergies in each area:
- Tree pollen
- Plant pollen
- Insect bites or stings
Pollen can be inhaled by children just from being outdoors during high-pollen seasons. Toddlers can also come into contact with tree or plant pollen through touch which can cause dermal symptoms, like hives or rash, or other allergy symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, and itchiness. Insect bites or stings can cause these reactions as well, but they are also one of the most common outdoor causes of more severe anaphylactic allergic reactions in children.
- Pet or animal hair
- Dust mites
It may seem like indoor allergies in your home are unlikely if the symptoms recently developed and nothing in the home has changed. However, dust mites are one of the most common allergies to develop, and one of the most common lingering irritants that go unnoticed in a home. Indoor allergens will cause toddlers to experience similar symptoms as with outdoor allergies such as sneezing, itching, runny or stuffy nose, and skin rashes.
- Tree nuts
- Dairy products (milk and milk-based)
An estimated 6 million children in the U.S. have a food allergy. Food allergies can often be difficult to detect since the body reacts differently to food allergens from person to person and from trigger to trigger. Some children may experience stomach aches or digestive issues, while others will develop an itchy throat or even breathing difficulties like anaphylaxis. It’s important to keep track of new foods being introduced and those eaten frequently so that any symptoms or reactions are easier to link.
Severe reactions are most commonly associated with peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish, which are all allergies that can last a lifetime. Many children, however, have allergies early on to milk, eggs, soy and wheat, and later outgrow this allergy.
- Detergents and cleaners
- Cigarette smoke
It’s common for younger children to have reactions or irritations as a result of particular household cleaners or detergents they are sensitive to. Smoke from cigarettes or vapes can also irritate toddlers’ air passages and cause coughing, sneezing, congestion and other sinus issues. Strong perfumes or scents can have a similar effect and should be used with caution.
Common Toddler Allergy Conditions
Allergic Rhinitis (hay fever)
Allergic rhinitis, and known as hay fever, is triggered by allergens such as pollen and pet dander. Contrary to the name, it is not always caused by hay (though hay is a common allergy) and does not produce a fever. Allergic rhinitis causes symptoms such as runny, itchy nose, sneezing, post nasal drip and stuffy nose. Red, watery eyes and chronic ear or sinus problems can also be a sign of allergic rhinitis as the underlying cause.
Children often experience chronic nasal congestion when allergies are at play. Nasal obstruction can affect children’s ability to breathe well which impacts them in many ways, from increased difficulty with physical activity to trouble sleeping. Even the growth of the face and teeth can be affected if chronic nasal congestion goes untreated from a young age. Early diagnosis and treatment of the allergies that cause a stuffy nose can help prevent these problems.
Allergies can cause inflammation in the air and ear canals, which can lead to a build-up of fluid in the ears. Children may experience intense ear aches, itching, popping, or “fullness”, and since young ears are still developing, this needs to be addressed right away to avoid lasting hearing issues or scarring. If a child is experiencing these symptoms, especially on a recurring basis, see a doctor for testing and treatment as soon as possible.
Toddler Allergies at School
If your toddler is in a school environment, they may be exposed to specific allergens in that setting. If your child’s allergy symptoms or asthma are worse while at school, it may be the following –
School Pets: If your child has undiagnosed pet dander allergies, the class furry friend may cause coughing, sneezing, difficulty breathing, runny nose or a rash.
Dust Irritation: Young children often spend lots of time on carpeted floors or fabric cushions which can trap dust more easily, so if your child is sensitive to dust it may help to request additional vacuuming or cleanings.
Your child may also need to prepare for certain situations that are unique to a school environment without parental control –
Physical Activity and Asthma: physical activity and play, at recess and indoors, is a big part of the school day experience. Children with allergies and asthma should still be able to participate in these activities, as long as a doctor agrees, but they should be monitored to make sure any medicines to help manage their symptoms are being taken, and that the physical activity isn’t too much for them to handle.
Food-Triggered Anaphylaxis: Parents of children with a food allergy should always be prepared for the possibility of anaphylaxis – a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that impairs breathing and can send a body into shock. For this reason, it’s important to have toddlers tested for food allergies, so they can be prescribed epinephrine (adrenaline) to have on hand at the school. This auto-injector should be administered immediately by school personnel if any anaphylactic symptoms occur.
Get Help with Toddler Allergies
If you suspect your child may have allergies, don’t wait to confirm. The allergy and breathing specialists at Advanced ENT & Allergy Center can help you determine which specific allergies your toddler has and create a plan for treatment to give them lasting relief from frustrating allergy symptoms. Book a consultation with an expert today.