Unlike an older child, your baby can’t tell you what is bothering him, but certain symptoms can alert you to the presence of seasonal allergies. An allergist can also use medical tests to help determine which allergens are responsible for your infant’s symptoms. Limiting his exposure to the suspect allergens, as well as providing certain medications, may help minimize your baby’s symptoms.
An allergy in your baby is his immune system’s overreaction to a harmless substance. An allergic reaction occurs when his body mistakes the insignificant substance, called an allergen, as a threatening invader. During an allergy attack, your child’s immune system produces antibodies that release chemicals into his blood stream in an attempt to rid his body of the invading allergen.
Seasonal allergies usually flare up in response to the reproductive cycles of certain plants. Spring may bring about an increase in allergic reactions as trees and plants begin to blossom and their pollen spreads through the air. In the fall, allergies can flare up when grass and other plants pollinate and go to seed, also distributing airborne particles that may enter your infant’s nose, eyes and lungs.
While symptoms of food allergies may cause hives and nausea, reactions to seasonal allergies usually cause a reaction called allergic rhinitis. During an allergy attack, your baby may experience sinus congestion, a runny nose and itchy eyes. Lying him on his back may increase postnasal drip entering his throat, causing him to cough.
Since seasonal allergens occur during certain times of the year, the timing of your baby’s symptoms may help you determine the source — or sources — of his allergy. A more exact method is a skin test administered by an allergist that can help pinpoint the specific substance causing his reactions. Skin tests introduce a small amount of suspected allergens under the skin. Localized swelling and redness around the injection site usually indicates the presence of an allergen.
Minimizing your baby’s exposure to the allergens that cause her reactions can help reduce her discomfort. Her pediatrician may prescribe an antihistamine that limits her production of histamine, a chemical that causes her symptoms. Although nonprescription medication may help relieve adult allergies, don’t give your infant over-the-counter allergy medications without first consulting her doctor.