Recognizing Symptoms of Allergies in Toddlers

Spotting symptoms of allergies in your children can be a challenge, but toddler allergies are a vexing problem for parents. One minute your child is happily playing, the next she's coughing and gasping for breath. You don't know what's happening, and your toddler probably can't explain the cause. Unless you have allergies yourself, you may not know where to begin looking.

Detecting Toddler Allergies
Sometimes it will be easy to recognize the cause of allergies in a toddler. If one or both parents suffers from allergies, there's a good chance that the child suffers from similar allergies. Other times it can be difficult to recognize the triggers, or to know that allergies are even present. An allergic reaction could look like a mild cold. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, disorders related to allergies are the most chronic diseases among children.  

What type of reaction your toddler has depends not only on the trigger of the allergies, but also on each individual child. In cases where a child suffers more serious allergic reactions, or in toddlers who have frequent allergy symptoms, an allergy specialist is often recommended. If you suspect that your toddler has allergies, it is a good idea to schedule a visit to your child's pediatrician and possibly an allergist. You will also want to be on the lookout for symptoms and possible triggers. 

If you suspect that your child has allergies, keep a daily journal. Take note of when reactions occur, what the child was doing right before the reaction and what, if anything, made the reaction go away. This can help determine if allergies are to blame, as well as what may have caused them to occur. Knowing the triggers is the first step to both prevention and treatment.  

Allergy Symptoms and Treatments
Not all toddler allergies will warrant a doctor's visit or require the same treatment and care. A mild rash that fades in a few days or a stuffy nose that disappears in a few hours usually don't require intervention. If your child is gasping for air or lacking energy, a doctor's visit should be scheduled immediately.

Nasal congestion is a very common sign of environmental allergies. These are often seasonal allergies, such as those to pollen or mold spores. These allergies could also be triggered by pet dander or a particular fragrance. If your toddler experiences nasal congestion that does not seem to regularly recur, it may be a response to an environmental irritant, such as dust, but not necessarily an allergy. If this symptom recurs frequently or follows a pattern, such as occurring every time you visit the local pet shop, it is likely an allergy. Congestion accompanied by red, itchy or watery eyes is often a good indication of an allergy.

The best way to deal with these allergies is to remove them from the environment. If pet dander is the culprit, the animal will have to go. Pollen is almost impossible to avoid, but keeping children inside an air-conditioned room with proper filters can help. Be sure to clean and check your air conditioner regularly; mold growth can be another source of respiratory troubles.

Sometimes children will outgrow seasonal allergies, others may have allergies get worse as they get older. Allergy shots can help kids who have severe allergies, and they may help prevent kids from developing asthma. It takes many years for these shots to be effective, and they can only begin once a child reaches the age of 4 or 5.

Never give your child an over-the-counter allergy medicine without a doctor's supervision. Antihistamines can kill young children, and most doctors recommend against using them in children under the age of 5.

Food Allergies
Coughing and wheezing also can be signs of allergies in a toddler. These symptoms can be triggered by allergies to foods, such as fish or peanut butter. These are far more serious than seasonal allergies and may lead to death if untreated. Anaphylaxis can cause life-threatening shock within seconds of exposure. If your toddler is struggling to breathe, get to a hospital immediately.

Allergic reactions could also be an early sign of asthma, a chronic condition in which the airways narrow and fill with mucus. Unlike allergies, asthma can be triggered by stress or changes in air temperature. As with severe food allergies, asthma can result in death and requires medical attention.

Diarrhea and vomiting are also signs of food allergies. Cow's milk and dairy products are common culprits. 

With food allergies, the only guaranteed treatment may be to eliminate the food from the child's diet. In severe cases, children should not even be in the vicinity of the problem food. As a parent, these allergies present particular problems, because you'll need to check the ingredients of everything your child eats until she is old enough to do it for herself.

If your child has a severe food allergy, inform caretakers, babysitters and parents of friends that the food is not allowed near your child. Talk to day care centers and schools as well, to make sure that your child won't be served a potentially deadly snack or lunch.

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