As with adults, babies and very young children can develop allergies too. Food allergies, environmental allergies, and even medication allergies can occur during a baby's first year of life. That is why it is important to expose your infant to new environmental conditions slowly, so that you are better able to identify any allergies should they develop.
Allergies occur when the body comes into contact with a triggering substance, or allergen. This causes a reaction in the immune system. The body produces certain antibodies, called histamines, to fight off the substance that is determined to be a threat. Typical allergens include environmental substances such as pollen and mould, food items such as soy and eggs, and certain medications including antibiotics.
There are many substances in the environment that can trigger a reaction in your baby. These include pollen, mold, dust mites, and pet dander. It might be difficult to determine if your baby has an allergy or a cold virus, as symptoms are similar. However, there are some differences in these symptoms. Excessive mucus production caused by allergies tends to be thin and clear. There is no fever with an allergic reaction, but there tends to be itching, either in the nose, eyes, ears, mouth, or skin. Sneezing is frequent and repetitive. Where colds tend to last no longer than two weeks, allergies can surpass that as long as the child is exposed to the allergen.
Food allergies can cause severe symptoms leading to serious consequences in many cases, depending on the severity of the allergy. When giving your baby solid foods, it is important to start slowly and introduce one new food at a time to check for allergic reaction. Although there are more than 100 foods that can trigger an allergic reaction, the most common culprits include soy, milk, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts, fish and shellfish, and wheat. Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include the development of hives or welts on the skin or in the mouth, swelling of the tongue, lips, or face, skin redness or rash, coughing, trouble breathing, gastrointestinal disturbances, and even unconsciousness. Emergency services may be necessary for allergic reactions that include mouth or facial swelling, trouble with breathing, and severe vomiting.
Most babies do not require frequent medication use during their first year of life, though allergies can occur if they do. Antibiotics commonly produce allergic reactions, especially penicillin and its derivatives. Some infants will also have an allergic reaction to certain childhood vaccinations. Symptoms may include a rash or hives on the skin, itching, development of a fever, swelling in the face or mouth, trouble breathing, gastrointestinal disturbances, tightening of the throat, and unconsciousness. It is important to contact emergency services if symptoms of allergic reaction are severe, include facial swelling, or affect breathing.
Please be aware that the articles on this site are written by mothers who are discussing their own experiences and their own opinions. They do not, and are not meant to, represent professional advice and should be read with that point firmly in mind.
Our children’s welfare is paramount; if you are ever in the slightest doubt about any aspect of caring for a child you are urged to seek qualified, specialist advice from a professional advisor.