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General Allergic Reaction in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 5, 2023.


An allergic reaction

is a response to an allergen. Allergens include medicines, food, insect stings, animal dander, mold, latex, chemicals, and dust mites. Pollen from trees, grass, and weeds can also cause an allergic reaction. An allergic reaction can range from mild to severe.

Common signs and symptoms:

  • Sneezing and a runny, itchy, or stuffy nose
  • Swollen, watery, or itchy eyes
  • Mild or severe skin itching or swelling
  • Swelling or pain where an insect bit or stung your child
  • Trouble breathing or swallowing, a cough, or wheezing
  • A rash or hives
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy

Call 911 for signs or symptoms of anaphylaxis,

such as trouble breathing, swelling in your child's mouth or throat, or wheezing. Your child may also have itching, a rash, hives, or feel like he or she is going to faint.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child has a skin rash, hives, swelling, or itching that is starting to get worse.
  • Your child's throat tightens, or his or her lips or tongue swell.
  • Your child has trouble swallowing or speaking.
  • Your child has worsening nausea, diarrhea, or abdominal cramps, or he or she is vomiting.
  • Your child has chest pain or tightness.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Treatment for a general allergic reaction

may include medicine to relieve certain allergy symptoms such as itching, sneezing, and swelling. Your child may take them as a pill or use drops in his or her nose or eyes. Topical treatments may be given to put directly on your child's skin to help decrease itching or swelling. Epinephrine may be prescribed if your child is at risk for anaphylaxis. This is a severe allergic reaction that can be life-threatening. Your child's healthcare provider will tell you if your child needs to keep epinephrine with him or her. Your child will be taught when and how to use it. You may need to talk to school officials or daycare providers about epinephrine use.

Manage your child's symptoms:

  • Help your child avoid allergens. Your child may need to have allergy testing with a healthcare provider or specialist to find his or her allergens.
  • Apply cold compresses on your child's skin or eyes. This will help soothe skin or eyes affected by the allergic reaction. You can make a cold compress by soaking a washcloth in cool water. Wring out the extra water before you apply the washcloth.
  • Rinse your child's nasal passages with a saline solution. Daily rinsing may help clear allergens out of your child's nose. Use distilled water if possible. You can also boil tap water and then let it cool before you use it. Do not use tap water without boiling it first.
  • Help your child avoid cigarette smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can make an allergic reaction worse, and can also cause lung damage. Ask your adolescent's healthcare provider for information if he or she currently smokes and needs help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your adolescent's healthcare provider before he or she uses these products.

Follow up with your child's doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your child's visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.