Skin allergies are the most common allergies in children. The second most common are allergies to foods. Respiratory allergies, which are more common among older children, are the third most common.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the cases of skin and food allergies among children increased over the period of a long-term survey (1997–2011), with skin allergies more prevalent in younger children than older ones.
Allergies are one of the most common medical conditions, but having them at an early age can interfere with a child’s physical and emotional health.
Learn about the different types of skin allergies in children and how to find the most effective treatment.
About 1 in every 10 kids develops eczema. Eczema (also called atopic dermatitis) is an inflammatory skin condition characterized by red rashes that itch. It usually appears in children 1 to 5 years old. Food allergies or environmental pollutants can cause eczema, but sometimes no cause is found.
Treatment: Standard treatment involves:
- avoiding allergens
- applying ointments and moisturizers
- in extreme cases, using prescription medication
Talk to your doctor if you suspect allergies. An allergist can help identify which allergens to avoid or which foods to eliminate.
Contact dermatitis is a rash that appears immediately after touching an irritating substance. If your child develops an allergy to a substance, then they may have allergic contact dermatitis.
The skin may blister, look scaly, or appear leathery from frequent exposure. Talk to your doctor if you suspect that your child’s skin is showing an allergic reaction. Your doctor can help identify the cause so it can be avoided.
Treatment: You can treat allergic contact dermatitis by:
- avoiding the irritant
- applying prescription steroid cream
- healing the skin with medications
- taking antihistamines to relieve itching
Hives appear as red bumps or welts soon after coming in contact with an allergen and are a severe allergic reaction. Unlike other skin allergies, hives aren’t dry or scaly and can appear anywhere on the body.
Some other possible symptoms include breathing difficulties or a swollen mouth and face. Seek medical attention immediately if these symptoms happen with hives.
Treatment: In most cases, hives go away on their own, as long as you avoid the allergen. Your doctor may suggest taking an antihistamine to treat or prevent hives.
Allergies occur when the body negatively reacts to certain substances. These can include, but aren’t limited to:
In some cases, skin allergy symptoms show up when the skin comes into direct contact with an external substance. In other cases, the allergen is ingested or inhaled.
Sometimes all your doctor needs to do is take a good history to help decide what your child should avoid. A “good history” is one compiled while your doctor listens to your concerns, ideas, and expectations. Your child’s history may be enough for the doctor to help suggest what potential allergen to eliminate first.
If a test for allergies is needed, your doctor usually does a patch test (on the surface of the skin) or a skin prick test (making needle pricks so tiny that they shouldn’t hurt or bleed). Both tests involve the introduction of small amounts of allergens into the skin. If a reaction occurs, then your child may have an allergy to the substance.
Your doctor uses various substances based on environment and family history. Sometimes a blood test is used for diagnosis, but this may be less accurate, particularly in very young children.
Not all skin reactions are allergic reactions. Your doctor can help determine the cause of your child’s skin reaction.
In rare cases, hives can be part of anaphylactic shock. Anaphylaxis is potentially life-threatening and occurs almost immediately after exposure.
Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- rapid, weak pulse
- swelling of the eyes, lips, or face
- trouble breathing
Call emergency services if your child is experiencing anaphylaxis. Your doctor may also tell you to use an epinephrine auto-injector.
Make an appointment with the doctor if your child has had a severe allergy attack and isn’t managing their condition.
Skin allergies happen at any age, but the CDC says they’re most common in young children. Thankfully, severity tends to decrease with age.
But it’s still important to address any unusual skin changes in your child early, before complications might ensue. Proactive measures are a key part of preventing recurring skin allergy symptoms in children.
Even if a rash goes away, it can come back if your child is exposed to certain triggers again. So, the best way to treat these allergies is to detect the cause early and prevent it from getting worse.
Work with a pediatrician to make sure the treatment addresses all of your concerns.