Does My Child Have An Allergy?

An allergy can be worrying for the parent of a small child – particularly if you don't know what is causing it.

An allergic reaction happens when the body’s immune system over-reacts to substance that would usually be harmless. It can happen after swallowing something or even just touching it or breathing it in.

The immune system treats the substance as a threat and releases histamines to defend the body against them.

Unfortunately, the release of histamine can cause the body to produce a range of mild to severe symptoms, and your condition can also deteriorate from mild to severe.
Your child may only have had mild symptoms but is important to be aware of the severe ones too.
Mild/moderate symptoms (source NHS)

    • tingling, itching or burning sensation in the mouth (an useful initial warning that child has eaten food they are allergic to)
    • rapid development of nettle rash/wheals/hives (urticaria)
    • intense itching
    • swelling, particularly of the face
    • feeling hot or very chilled
    • rising anxiety/feeling scared
    • pale or flushed
    • abdominal (tummy) pain
    • nausea and/or vomiting.

The most common food allergens are peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, eggs, milk, kiwi and seafood but according to Daisy First Aid, allergic reactions can be triggered by anything and can happen at any age. 

Other common allergens are medication and insect stings.

Anaphylaxis is an extreme allergic reaction and can be life threatening so it is important that 999 is called immediately.

Symptoms can take seconds or minutes to occur once exposed to the food or substance and will usually spread rapidly.  Rarely there may be a delayed onset of a few hours.

Signs that your child might have developed anaphylaxis:

  • Blotchy skin rash or flushing
  • Swelling anywhere on the body especially the face, tongue, lips and throat causing the airway to be compromised leading to breathing difficulties
  • Pale skin, fast pulse and dizziness
  • Feeling of impending sense of doom
  • Abdominal pain and nausea
  • Unconsciousness

If the child has an auto injector it is vital that this is administered immediately and 999 is called.  If the child stops breathing then start CPR.

Treatment for mild/moderate symptoms (source NHS)

    1. The child/young person should be watched carefully and given some oral antihistamine such as chlorphenamine (Piriton) or cetirizine (Piriteze or Zirtek), depending on the
      age of the child. Cetirizine is recommended for children over 1 year old, as it is a non-sedating antihistamine, which is longer acting and does not usually cause drowsiness. These antihistamines can be in syrup or tablet form. If your child can easily swallow tablets then it may be good to swap to these, as they are easier to carry.
    2. It is important to stay with the child and continue to monitor the allergic reaction to make sure it is getting better, not worse.

Treatment for severe symptoms 

It is highly unlikely that severe symptoms will occur based on your child’s allergy history and test results.

If, on a rare occasion, severe symptoms occur, please follow these guidelines:

  1. Stay with the child – do not leave them alone.
  2. If the symptoms do become severe, you need to dial 999 and ask for an ambulance with a paramedic crew.
  3. If your child is having breathing difficulties, keep them sitting, supported upright. Treat any wheeziness with your child’s inhaler (if they have been prescribed one), such as salbutamol (Ventolin). If you have not done so already, call 999 and ask for an ambulance.
  4. If they appear to be fainting then lie them flat with their legs raised. If your child completely loses consciousness, then they should be laid down on their side.
  5. Stay with your child, keeping them calm and comforted until help arrives.


Children who have had a previous severe reaction or who have problematic asthma are usually given adrenaline to carry with them to treat a severe allergic reaction. The best and easiest way to carry this is as a pre filled injectable syringe known as Epipen, JEXT or Emerade. Your child does not need adrenaline at present.

If your child develops asthma or has a severe reaction, please contact the allergy clinic or your GP. Your child’s allergy management and the need for adrenaline will then be reviewed.

For more information and to find your nearest first aid trainer visit

For more information on allergies in childhood click here 

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