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. A reaction may come in one of several forms.

Eczema

At least 10% of children around the world have eczema. It’s especially common if your child has asthma, food allergies, or hay fever or if any of these conditions runs in the family.

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

  • A red rash
  • Scratching that damages the skin and leads to more itching
  • Dry skin
  • Thick, leathery patches that show up over time from scratching and rubbing; common areas include cheeks, creases of arms or legs, nape of neck, back, chest or abdomen.
  • Repeat skin infections that may be caused by scratching

The following things can set off more itching:

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

Allergic Rash

When your child gets a rash after touching something he’s sensitive 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 set off 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 and can come and go over a few days. Triggers include:

Sometimes, hives can appear without a known trigger.

If your child has them, he may also get another kind of swelling called angioedema. It shows up on soft skin, like the kind around his mouth, eyes, and genitals. It usually doesn’t appear on its own without hives. Hives are not dangerous, but if you child has difficulty breathing or his tongue or throat have swelled, seek emergency medical help immediately.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Amita Shroff, MD on October 29, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology: "Skin allergy overview."

American Academy of Pediatrics: "Eczema."

Kliegman: Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th edition, Saunders, 2011.

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: "Handout on Health: atopic dermatitis."

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