Infant Allergies

Allergens: those pesky little buggers that cause our body’s immune system to over react and release histamines to fight off what our body signals as a foreign substance. Babies are especially prone to allergies as their bodies are newly exposed to various environments. There are several different types of infant allergies that may be a result of genetics (inherited from my mom or dad) or environmental factors.

Common Infant Allergies

Infants and children come into contact with allergens by way of  touching, breathing, or ingesting them. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and can be dangerous if gone untreated. Many allergies may present themselves as a cold or the flu. To throw some light on some of the most common allergies in infants I’m going to go over food allergies, skin allergies, and respiratory allergies. This will hopefully give you a better understanding at what to look for if you suspect your child may be susceptible to certain allergens.

Food Allergies

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) an average of 4.5 percent of infants and children suffer from food allergies. A food allergy may be characterized by a runny or stuffy nose, dark circles under the eyes, bloating, intestinal gas, fatigue, headaches, chronic cough, abdominal pain and diarrhea. In severe cases, a food allergy may result in swelling of the tongue which can block off the airway and requires immediate medical attention.

The most common food allergy culprits are:

  • Nuts
  • Shellfish
  • Egg whites
  • Tomatoes
  • Yeast
  • Citrus fruits
  • Wheat
  • Chocolate

It used to be advised that you should hold off introducing certain foods to infants that were commonly known to cause allergies; however there is no evidence proving that delaying certain foods reduces the chances of an infant developing an allergy to it. It is recommended that when introducing foods to infants, offer one at a time over for a few days to watch for any reactions.

Milk Allergy

This is probably one of the most often heard of allergy among infants, though only 2-3% of infants have an allergy to milk. A milk allergy is caused by the body’s negative reaction to the protein, casein, found in cow’s milk. While it can occur in both breastfed and formula-fed infants, it is more common among those who receive formula as it is based on casein. The allergy among breastfed infants is more likely caused from cow’s milk in the mother’s diet rather than the breast milk itself.

Signs of a milk allergy may be characterized by:

  • Vomiting or excessive spit-up
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain after a feeding
  • No weight gain
  • The presence of blood in stools
  • Watery eyes and stuffy nose
  • Coughing
  • Swelling of the mouth and throat

Your child’s doctor can determine if your baby has a milk allergy by performing a simple pin-prick test and going over your family history. It may be suggested to avoid milk or certain foods containing dairy while breastfeeding or if your baby is on formula the doctor may switch them to soy brand. Unlike with food, however, most babies will outgrow a milk allergy.

Skin Allergies

An average of 10.7 percent of infants and children under the age of 18 have some form of skin allergy. The most common are eczema, followed by Seborrhea, Dermatitis, and Prickly Heat. Skin allergies can be hereditary or triggered by environmental factors. Frequent bathing and/or scrubbing your baby can dry out their delicate skin leaving them more prone to developing skin allergies later on.

Eczemaoccurs in 20% infants of 3-4 months old. It is characterized by dry patchy areas on the skin, redness of skin, oozing of pus, burn and crust over. It can be caused by extreme temperatures, soaps and clothing made of irritating fabrics such as wool. It’s typically treated with a moisturizer or a topical steroid ointment prescribed by your child’s doctor. To prevent further irritation consider switching to organic bedding and clothing.

200px-Cradle_Cap_DetailSeborrhea – better known as cradle cap, this occurs in babies under six months and is characterized by yellow crusty scales (resembles dandruff) that can appear on the scalp and eyebrows, on the neck, behind the ears, on the chest and cheeks (may appear red and bumpy similar to acne) Treatment involves washing the scalp with anti-dandruff shampoo and applying a little baby oil or olive oil to loosen the scales. Both of my kids had this and I would use olive oil to loosen it then comb it out. While my son’s wasn’t severe, my daughter at nearly 4 years old still has it.

Dermatitis – a skin reaction to certain substances from grass to soaps or detergents and similar substances. It is characterized by red, itchy bumps. Treatment usually consists of applying a hydrocortisone cream for the itching and moisturizing the skin. Remove the allergen by avoiding it or switching soaps to prevent further irritation.

Prickly Heat – This is also a very common infant allergy. It occurs when your baby’s body is unable to regulate heat properly and is characterized by tiny red bumps on the face, neck, chest and back. Triggers of this allergy include humid weather, tight clothing, hot car ride etc. Keep your baby comfortably cool (not cold) and dress them in loose clothing for prevention.

Respiratory Allergies

More than 16 percent of infants and children suffer from respiratory allergies that affect the airways and nasal passages. The difference between a respiratory allergy and a cold is that it affects the lower respiratory tract causing coughing and wheezing while a cold affects the upper tract causing a runny nose and nasal discharge. Respiratory allergies in infants can be potentially life threatening so it’s important to recognize the symptoms and treat them right away.


This condition affects over 9% of infants and children in the U.S. It causes irritation to the lungs and inflammation to the airways making it difficult to breathe. Symptoms of asthma are often characterized by wheezing, shortness of breath, frequent coughing spells, and tightness in the chest. It can be hard to distinguish in infants as certain respiratory illnesses are associated with wheezing and coughing also including bronchitis and RSV.  There is no significant cause although it is believed that a combination of environmental and hereditary factors play a part as well as exposure to common irritating substances such as:

  • Dust
  • Pollen
  • Pet dander
  • Mold
  • Smoke

Your child may be at risk of developing asthma if there is a positive family history of it. Any time your child shows signs of wheezing or difficulty breathing you should take them in to see a doctor for evaluation as it could be a sign of asthma or other serious condition that requires medical treatment. Your pediatrician can discuss treatment options and management for asthma in infants to keep it under control and avoid acute asthma attacks. Over time asthma in children can change so close monitoring and regular check ups is generally advised in order to keep it in check and prevent future lung problems.

Allergic Rhinitis
Commonly referred to as ‘Hay Fever’ this seasonal allergy is brought on by pollen that is produced by trees and grasses rather than flowers. Allergic rhinitis is usually characterized by cold-like symptoms including runny or stuffy nose, itchy, watery eyes, sneezing and coughing. Children who suffer from other allergies such as eczema and asthma are more likely to get it. The condition is generally treated with antihistamines and nasal decongestants; however these are not advised for infants without the consult of a doctor. If your baby shows signs of allergic rhinitis, discuss it with your pediatrician for seeking treatment.If allergies tend to run in your family you may discuss allergy testing with your pediatrician to determine if your baby is at risk as well as treatment options and prevention. This is simply a guide to briefly explain common infant allergies and possible signs to look for. If you have concerns regarding your child’s health you should seek the advice of your child’s doctor.



  1. You have given very wide information on childcare. There are many skin allergies that affect a child like skin and respiratory allergies. This information will help many mothers.

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