A Parent’s Guide to Allergy Testing: Signs and Symptoms of Childhood Allergies

Girl sneezing into tissue

As a loving parent, you always want the best for your children. That means making sure they are happy and healthy. So, what are you to do when bothersome symptoms impede their quality of life? A visit to your local allergist’s office can alleviate the causes of this discomfort and bring your family answers and peace of mind. 

Understanding Childhood Allergies

Childhood allergies occur when the immune system reacts negatively to typically harmless substances. These triggers, known as allergens, can range from airborne environmental factors like pollen and pet dander to insect stings, medications and more. When “threatened” by the allergen, the immune system releases chemicals, such as histamines, to “protect” the body, causing allergy symptoms. It is estimated that up to 40%-50% of children worldwide experience allergies.

Common Childhood Allergies, Signs and Symptoms

Identifying and managing allergies early on can make a significant difference in your child’s overall health. By paying close attention to your child’s discomfort, you can more easily recognize the signs and symptoms of allergies. While reactions can differ between children, common allergy signs include the following:

Nasal Allergies

Nasal allergies, also known as allergic rhinitis or hay fever, are a common condition characterized by inflammation of the nasal passages due to an allergic reaction. These allergies can often be seasonal, triggered by pollen during specific times of the year, or perennial, occurring year-round due to exposure to indoor allergens like pet dander or dust mites. 

Common nasal allergy symptoms include:

  • Frequent sneezing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Itchy or watery eyes
  • Nasal congestion
  • Postnasal drip leads to coughing or throat clearing.

Skin Allergies

Skin allergies, or allergic dermatitis, refer to allergic reactions when the skin comes into contact with specific irritants, such as certain metals (such as nickel), latex, cosmetics, fragrances, certain medications and plants like poison ivy or poison oak. 

The two major types of skin allergies include eczema allergy rash (atopic dermatitis) and hives (urticaria or angioedema). 

Common skin allergy symptoms include:

  • Dry, red or itchy skin
  • Raised, bumpy rashes
  • Swelling or inflammation
  • Skin that is warm to the touch

Insect Sting Allergies 

Insect sting reactions occur in response to the venom injected by insect stings, such as bees, wasps, hornets or fire ants. This exaggerated immune response can cause symptoms ranging from mild to severe. 

Common insect sting allergy symptoms include:

  • Localized swelling
  • Skin redness
  • Pain and/or itching at the sting site
  • Anaphylaxis

NOTE: Anaphylaxis is a potentially life-threatening reaction involving a combination of symptoms such as difficulty breathing, swelling of the face or throat, rapid heartbeat, dizziness and/or a drop in blood pressure. Individuals with known insect sting allergies should always carry an epinephrine autoinjector and seek immediate medical attention if they experience symptoms of anaphylaxis.

When to Consider Allergy Testing

As an observant parent, you can identify when something is amiss with your little one. However, we also understand that determining regular sick day sniffles from allergy symptoms can be challenging. While some allergies may be self-evident at first sight, we always recommend testing in any case where allergies are suspected. It may be time to schedule an appointment with your local allergist if you’ve noticed the following:

Severe or Recurring Symptoms

If your child experiences severe or persistent allergy symptoms that significantly affect their quality of life, it may be time to visit your allergist. At Arkansas Allergy and Asthma Clinic, we understand each patient’s needs are as unique as their allergies and work closely with you to create custom treatment plans that deliver relief.

Unclear Triggers

Sometimes symptoms do not have a clear cause. In cases such as these, allergy testing can provide clarity. Pinpointing specific triggers will help your child avoid unnecessary restrictions and help you confidently and effectively manage allergies.

Multiple Allergies

Children with multiple allergies may benefit from allergy testing to determine the extent of their sensitivities. This information is crucial for developing a comprehensive treatment plan and minimizing exposure to known allergens.

Types of Allergy Testing:

Now that you have identified the symptoms, it’s time to explore your child’s testing options. There are several types of allergy testing available for kids, both of which are simple and relatively painless. These tests are conducted by allergists and can provide valuable insights for developing effective management strategies. The most common allergy testing methods for children include skin prick and blood tests.

  1. Skin Prick Test: This involves applying a small amount of allergen extracts to the skin, usually on the forearm or back. The skin is then pricked with a small instrument like a plastic toothpick, allowing the allergen to penetrate the skin. If your child is allergic to a particular substance, a small, raised bump surrounded by redness (known as a wheal and flare reaction) will appear at the test site.
  2. Blood Tests: Blood tests, such as the specific IgE (immunoglobulin E) blood test, measure the blood’s levels of allergen-specific antibodies. Samples taken from this test are sent to a laboratory and analyzed to determine the presence and levels of the antibodies.

Both skin prick tests and blood tests have advantages and considerations, and the choice of testing method depends on the child’s age, medical history and other additional circumstances. Your allergist will assist you in determining the best testing method for your child’s needs.

Our allergists are here for your family!

Are allergies causing your child discomfort? Arkansas Allergy and Asthma Clinic’s trusted allergy specialists are always ready to guide patients toward relief. With locations across the nation, allergy relief is always close to home. Contact us today to schedule your child’s allergy appointment.

About Arkansas Allergy and Asthma Clinic (AAAC)

Arkansas Allergy and Asthma Clinic (AAAC) is affiliated with Family Allergy & Asthma, a network of board-certified allergy and asthma specialists dedicated to providing high-quality, reliable and lasting allergy relief. AAAC serves patients in communities throughout Central Arkansas at two convenient locations in Little Rock and Conway, Ark. AAAC is also on Facebook, Instagram and X. For more information, visit arallergy.com.