If your baby suddenly comes down with a runny nose, dry cough and red eyes, you may wonder if he or she is sick or whether the symptoms could be caused by allergies. Sometimes it can be very difficult to tell the difference, but there are a few telltale signs that can help you determine the cause.

Babies and Allergies

If you wonder if your newborn could have baby allergies, you may be relieved to know that many pediatricians say this is rare, since it can take a certain amount of exposure to a substance in order for the body to have a full blown allergy attack. However, when it comes to babies and allergies, your infant can certainly be the exception so you can't complete rule out the possibility either.  Some little ones are indeed at higher risk for baby allergies at an early age, especially if there is a strong family history of allergies or asthma or if your child has eczema.[i]

It is also worth noting that while a tendency toward allergies is usually passed down from generation to generation, what triggers the reaction may change from person to person. For instance, while you may be allergic to cats, your baby may react to something else completely different.

Some of the most common baby allergies include:

  • Dust mites
  • Animals
  • Mold spores

Seasonal allergies can also kick in at around 3 or 4 years of age, when your child has had enough time to become exposed to outdoor triggers and for his or her body to build up a response to them.[ii]

The Signs of Baby Allergies

While baby allergies and the symptoms of a cold can be very similar, there are some certain clues that can help you differentiate.

Here are some things you should know:

  • A cold typically lasts for a week or two at the most, while allergies come and can stay indefinitely.
  • A cold can also cause a fever, while allergies usually don't.
  • A baby with allergies may seem to always have a runny nose and be sneezing.
  • A rash that lingers, or patches of irritated skin, may accompany allergies in babies.
  • Dark circles under your baby's eyes could be another baby allergies sign.
  • If your child has frequent ear and sinus infections, these can be complications that result in an allergy situation.

The Bottom Line on Babies and Allergies

If you think your baby could have allergies, you should see an allergist to help hone in on the triggers. Usually a blood test can be an appropriate way to narrow in on the causes of baby allergies in the very littlest patients. In some cases, skin testing can also be used. Just keep in mind that the reaction is often more subtle in infants and may be more difficult to identify.  If your doctor does confirm that baby allergies are to blame for your infant's illness, there are some medications that are approved for babies six months and older, so ask whether this would be an appropriate treatment option to help your child to feel better.[iii]




[i] http://parenting.ivillage.com/baby/bhealth/0,,3q6j,00.html

[ii] http://www.babycenter.com/0_allergies_73.bc?showAll=true

[iii] http://www.babycenter.com/0_allergies_73.bc?showAll=true