Recognizing Symptoms In Infants Of Allergies

Infants get allergies, and symptoms can be quite varied and difficult to isolate. Many mimic signs of other illnesses and can be confusing to both the experienced and the new parent.

Infants are marvelously made. The immune system of even the minutes-old infant can recognize and differentiate between invaders and supporters and will initiate action from the appropriate body systems. Toxic substances may, unfortunately, also come to include common substances which most of us tolerate with reasonable comfort.

Most practitioners group allergens into three distict categories: foods, inhalants and environmentals.

Foods are obvious, and include among the top eight: dairy products, gluten (the protein found in wheat and its cousins), shellfish, peanuts, soy, tree nuts and corn.

Inhalants include dust mites, pollens, animal danders and grain dust. These are what most people think of when they are discussing allergies.

Environmentals are defined as those things, like chemicals, which are found with the environment and come in contact with the skin, are inhaled or ingested. Some environmental allergy triggers are laundry soap, dryer sheets, petrochemicals, paints and solvents, smoke from wood burning stoves or formaldehyde given off from wood paneling and running the self-cleaning oven.

Standardly recognized reactions to anything the body considers an allergen will sometimes include a rash of raised bumps. These welts can be red but are usually similar to mosquito bites in size and appearance. If they are hives, they will be clustered together and it is infrequent that you would find only one in an area. If the infant is suffering a contact allergy, the hives will appear at the place of contact, but if the hives are from an ingested food, they may be discovered on the stomach, hands, face, back, of inside of the thighs. Many infants do, however, suffer from external yeast infections and the parent should learn to differentiate between the tiny bumps (called satellite lesions) of a candidis infection or thrush, and the hive of allergy.

In the infant, the itchiness of hives is not able to be expressed, so will usually present as inconsolable crying. Depending on the age and mobility of the young child, the parent may also witness scratching and rolling around behaviour, as the child tries to scratch the itchy areas.

Another symptom of allergy may be eczema. This dry scaling skin condition can look almost like the shedding of skin, and may also appear behind the ears and on the scalp. On the head, it is often misdiagnosed at home as cradle cap. If it appears behind the ears, it may look as if you are not washing the child frequently enough, but it will not wash off.

Swelling of the eyes, lips and face may also be a sign of allergic reaction. If swelling occurs, it is most important to monitor the child's breathing as the possibility of swelling in the throat also exists, and if the throat swells, it could close off the breathing passage, leading to anaphlyactic shock and possibly death.

Some children will suffer breathing problems, a constant runny or dripping nose, and seemingly weeping eyes. Many undergo treatment for plugged tear ducts, or are treated for frequent colds with over-the-counter decongestants and anti-histamine combination products. Some children who have sinus problems, may develop a cough as the throat because inflamed from drainage at night and during nap times.

Even young infants who are exclusively breast-fed can exhibit signs of food allergy. More often than not, these sensitized reactions occur because of exposure in utero or during nursing in a genetically predisposed child. Mom's diet is causing the allergic reaction. Most likely a factor in these instances are bovine dairy products.

If the child is reacting to something in the mother's diet, one will probably find that he has a bloated stomach, suffers from chronic or constant gas, spits up frequently and cries incessantly. Some will projectile vomit after eating. Stools may be infrequent, leading to constipation, or, they may be watery, extremely loose and of the wrong colour for a breast-fed baby. The baby may cry upon moving her bowels or passing urine. Many physicians mistake symptoms of allergy for colic and counsel parents to wait for it to pass (usually by 6 months of age), when a simple elimination of dairy from the mother's diet would produce a much more contented baby.

An infant experiencing allergic reaction may sleep much more than is considered normal for his or her chronological age. Conversely, they may sleep little and seem to be unable to self-calm - needing almost constant attention from the parent. The child may also eat non-stop, mistaking the pains of flatulence, for the pangs of hunger. Other children will refuse to eat at all, resulting in a diagnosis of failure to thrive.

For some children, food allergy causes them to overeat, but the brain can only deal with the toxins by storing them as fat. These children will have huge bellies but emaciated legs and arms. If the reaction is to wheat gluten, they may have a peculiar rash on the buttocks and upper thighs known as DH, or dermatitis herpetiforma.

Signs and symptoms of allergy can be confusing even to the adult sufferer, and, indeed, often seem contradictory. A concerned parent, or one who has a family history of allergy, should consult with a qualified specialist who can advise her on the warning signs of allergy in infancy and who can provide him with some ideas for prevention.

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