Signs of allergies in toddlers

Allergy symptoms often begin to appear when a child is between ages 1 and 3. What do signs of allergies in toddlers look like?

Allergies usually develop after repeated exposure to an allergen, a substance that causes a reaction by the body’s immune system. What are the signs of allergies in toddlers, and when should parents talk to their pediatrician?

When do allergies start?

If you have allergies, there may be an increased risk for your child to have allergies. Your child may have allergies similar to yours, but parents pass on the ability to become allergic to things, not necessarily the specific allergen sensitivity. So, your child could react to completely different allergens. Even if you don’t experience allergies, a child still can develop allergy symptoms.

Kids ages 1 to 2 can start showing signs of being allergic to indoor allergens such as dust mites, mold, cockroaches and pet dander. Seasonal allergies, such as those caused by tree pollen, grass and ragweed, are usually rare in babies. Because of this, children often begin showing signs of seasonal allergies as toddlers, usually between the ages of 2 and 3.

Signs of allergies in toddlers

Allergy symptoms usually come on suddenly and usually last for as long as a child is exposed to the allergen. Symptoms can include:

  • Congestion
  • Coughing
  • Itchy nose and/or throat
  • Runny nose with clear drainage
  • Sneezing

“At first, it can be difficult for parents to tell the difference between allergies or an infection such as a cold,” said Jameel T. Clark, M.D., pediatrician with Norton Children’s Medical Group – Dixie. “One telltale sign it may be allergies is if your child is rubbing their nose and eyes. They may develop a line on their nose from rubbing the nose.”

Norton Children’s Medical Group, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine

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Children with seasonal allergies may also eat or sleep with their mouths open due to having trouble breathing.

What families can do

The best treatment for allergies is to avoid the allergens, which isn’t always possible when they’re in the air. Families can keep windows closed and use HEPA air filters on air conditioners to help limit the spread of outdoor allergens into the home. Paying attention to the weather report for when allergens are peaking can help you plan your day. Grass and pollen are strongest in the mornings, so try to limit any outdoor activities until the afternoon. After being outside, have your child take a shower or give them a bath.

While seasonal allergies can be managed by over-the-counter medicines, it’s important for parents to check in with their pediatrician.

“A pediatrician can help you confirm that it’s seasonal allergies and direct you to the right medicines and dosage for your child’s age,” Dr. Clark said. “They can let you know when it’s appropriate to have any allergy testing completed, or when it’s time for your child to see an allergy specialist.”

Allergies can be bothersome for most children, but for others can cause potentially serious issues. Managing allergies is key, according to Dr. Clark.

“Children with allergies also can have asthma,” Dr. Clark said. “It’s important to manage any allergy symptoms when you notice them in your child. Allergies can cause asthma flare-ups, coughing, wheezing and breathing issues.”