By Betsy Stein
Should you take your child to be allergy tested? Susan Land of Piney Orchard suspected her daughter might have a milk allergy after she ate ice cream and got violently ill. She eventually took her for allergy testing and found out it wasn’t milk at all — it was an egg allergy.
Sometimes it’s hard to recognize that your baby has allergies, according to Dr. Duane Gels, an allergist with Annapolis Allergy and Asthma. Here are five tips from Gels on what to ignore and what to look for when considering allergy testing for babies.
When to consider allergy testing
- Excessive sneezing is not a sign of allergies in babies. Babies generally don’t get hay fever. In fact, short fits of sneezing are completely normal in healthy babies, and usually have nothing to do with allergies. A “salvo of sneezes” from your little one might attract attention, but chances are it’s just a nature’s way of cleaning out some errant mucus.
- Recurrent infections can be a red flag. Childcare and sick older siblings are often a factor in illnesses, but if congestion, ear or sinus infections keep recurring allergies are a possible culprit. Look for puffy, dark circles under the eyes, which are known as “allergic shiners.: Consider whether furry pets, dust mites or mold are keeping your baby congested after routine head colds. Before considering surgery for ear tubes or adenoids, look into whether allergies are contributing to the problem.
- Be aware of wheezing. Call your healthcare provider if you notice high-pitched sounds coming from the chest. (Don’t confuse the sound with noise from congested nostrils.) Get help if your baby develops “respiratory distress” which is increased effort to breathe. Signs include flaring of nostrils, pulling at the ribs or grunting at the end of each breath. Allergies make wheezing more frequent, more severe and difficult to treat.
- Eczema can be a sure sign of allergies. Atopic dermatitis is a chronic, relapsing rash that often appears in infancy. The skin is dry, red and itchy and can make babies miserable. Studies show up to 35 percent of these babies have undiagnosed food allergies. Once the allergic food is identified and removed from the diet — or mother’s diet, if nursing — rashes often disappear within days.
- Don’t ignore food aversions. Allergists and pediatricians no longer recommend parents delay adding foods into the diet that are typical “allergic” foods such as eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shell fish. Data now suggests it’s better to add these foods into the diet as early as six months of age. If there is swelling, a rash, vomiting and/or signs of itching immediately after a feeding, allergies are suspected. If your child consistently seems reluctant to eat one of these foods, don’t force it. Food aversion can be an early sign of a life-threatening food allergy. Seek professional advice.