By Dr Evelyn Lewin

Allergies are common in children. Children can be allergic to many different substances. These include foods, washing liquids, pollen, metals, medication, animal dander (fur and skin flakes from household animals) and insect bites. In an allergic reaction, the body incorrectly identifies a substance it has come in contact with as ‘harmful’. The body sends off antibodies to attack the ‘harmful’ substance. In doing so, there is an immune system reaction that causes release of many chemicals. One of these chemicals, histamine, causes symptoms of inflammation. In severe cases (anaphylaxis) this can be deadly (for more information on anaphylaxis, please refer to this sheet). Children can grow out of some allergies, while others may be lifelong. Children who have asthma and/or eczema, or who are from families who have these conditions or allergies, are more likely to have allergies. Find a Paediatric Allergy Specialist in your area. 


Allergies range from mild to severe.

  • Skin reaction: If a child is allergic to something touching her skin, like her watch, she may develop an allergic reaction to that (contact dermatitis). Her skin may become red, itchy, and may appear bubbly. She is usually otherwise well.
  • Hay fever: Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen. It is worst in summer. Symptoms include red, watery and itchy eyes, sneezing and an itchy, runny nose.
  • Food allergy: Children with food allergies can have mild or severe reactions. An allergy may involve vomiting, skin rash or diarrhoea. Severe food allergies can cause anaphylaxis.


The first step to managing an allergy is to identify what caused it (the trigger), and then avoid it. It is important to see your doctor after an allergic reaction. Your doctor may recommend further allergy testing. Prevention is vital. Make sure your child’s school is aware of her allergies. If your child has a food allergy, ensure your child is not allowed to eat other children’s food and that all relevant staff members know of her allergy, and how to treat an allergic reaction.

  • Skin reactions: For skin reactions, steroid cream can help reduce itchiness and inflammation of the skin. An oral antihistamine can help reduce the rash too. Sometimes oral steroids are also recommended.
  • Hay fever: Antihistamines help reduce symptoms. They may need to be taken daily in summer. Discuss with your doctor.
  • Food allergies: Avoid the food trigger. Antihistamines and/or steroids can help with symptoms.
  • Anaphylaxis: If your child is experiencing anaphylaxis, call an ambulance immediately and seek urgent medical care.
Reviewed by Dr Evelyn Lewin 25 February 2015 references
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This document has been developed and peer reviewed by a KIDS HEALTH Advisory Board Representative and is based on expert opinion and the available published literature at the time of review. Information contained in this document is not intended to replace medical advice and any questions regarding a medical diagnosis or treatment should be directed to a medical practitioner.

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