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Common Skin Allergies in Kids

Allergies don’t just cause children to sneeze and wheeze. They can also show up on your child’s skin. Skin allergies come in several forms:

  • Eczema
  • Allergic rash from touching something
  • Hives  and swelling


At least 10% of children around the world have eczema. It’s especially common when asthma, food allergies, or hay fever run in their families.

Doctors aren’t totally sure what causes eczema. In infants, it shows up as a rash on the face or head. Later, eczema may spread to the arms and torso. The skin is often very itchy and easily irritated.

Symptoms can include:

  • A red rash
  • Scratching that damages the skin and causes more itching
  • Dry skin
  • Thick, leathery patches on the skin that show up over time from scratching and rubbing
  • Repeat skin infections

These things can set off more itching:

  • Dry air
  • Sweating
  • Rough fabrics
  • Certain soaps and detergents
  • Foods such as egg, nuts, cow milk, wheat, soy, and seafood, but only sometimes

Allergic Rash

When your child gets a rash after touching something he’s allergic to, it’s called allergic contact dermatitis. Symptoms can include:

  • Severe itching
  • Skin redness or rash
  • Thick, scaly, leathery patches on the skin that develop over time

Things that can trigger these reactions include:

  • Nickel, a metal in some earrings, snaps, and buttons
  • Poison ivy, oak, and sumac
  • Ingredients in mouthwash and toothpaste
  • Chemicals and dyes in shoes
  • Cosmetics
  • Medicines used on the skin, such as neomycin (an antibiotic), antihistamines, and anesthetics (skin-numbing treatments)

Hives and Swelling

Hives are itchy red bumps or patches on the skin. They can last for a few minutes to a few hours. Things that can trigger hives include:

  • Foods like eggs, milk, peanuts, wheat, soy, seafood, nuts, and strawberries
  • Medicines, especially antibiotics
  • Insect bites and stings
  • Latex
  • Pet saliva or dander
  • Viral infections

Sometimes, hives can appear without any identifiable trigger.

If you have hives, you may also get another kind of swelling called angioedema. Angioedema tends to happen in soft skin, like around the mouth, eyes, and genitals. This swelling usually doesn’t appear on its own without hives.  

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD on October 23, 2014

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