Does My Baby Have a Food Allergy Rash?

Do you think your baby’s rash may be caused by a food allergy? Let’s look at how to identify and treat a food allergy rash.

What is a Food Allergy Rash?

A food allergy rash is a rash that is caused by an overreaction of our immune systems to a particular food. Our immune systems are there to protect us from bacteria, viruses, and other invasions that can cause sickness. As is the case with other types of allergies, a food allergy occurs when the body reacts to an otherwise harmless item, wreaking havoc in our systems. With food allergies, the IgE antibodies overreact to a particular food(s), and a rash is often the first symptom to form.

How do IgE Antibodies Cause a Rash? 

IgE antibodies detect the food and release histamine into the bloodstream to offer protection from the otherwise harmless food. In the process, blood vessels widen and release fluid which causes inflammation under the skin. A raised rash is the result, leaving the baby uncomfortable and the parents wondering what caused it and where to go from here. 

Identifying a Food Allergy Rash

One of the most common signs your baby may have a food allergy is a rash that appears shortly after eating the offending food. It is often the first symptom to appear, the most common symptom of a food allergy, and can appear anywhere on the skin. 

A food allergy often presents itself in the form of hives. Food allergy rashes often are concentrated in a couple areas on the body but can spread to other areas, especially in the case of a more severe food allergy. The individual bumps are often small in size, but they cluster together to form larger areas that may look like one larger rash. 

In some cases, a food allergy can cause the skin to become red and inflamed without actually causing an actual raised rash. Food allergies can also cause eczema to become worse. Though worsening eczema is not a rash, it is important to watch this type of symptom closely since it is often associated with food allergies.

Though a rash may be the only symptom, one of the best ways to identify food allergy rashes is to pay attention to other signs that might accompany them. These signs will almost always occur within a few hours of eating the food. If you notice any of the following symptoms, along with a rash, contact your doctor to help determine if a food allergy might be the cause. 

Mild Food Allergy Symptoms

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Swelling 
  • Sneezing
  • Congestion
  • Stomach pain
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Coughing 
  • Worsening eczema 

Severe Food Allergy Symptoms 

  • Swelling of the tongue
  • Tightness of the throat
  • Coughing 
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Paleness of skin
  • Fainting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Loss of consciousness

Anaphylaxis 

Anaphylactic reactions are rare in babies under the age of one, but it is good to be aware of hte symptoms. Anaphylaxis is a swift, intense allergic reaction that is life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. If you notice any of the following symptoms in your child, seek medical help right away:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling of the tongue
  • Widespread hives, covering a large part of the body
  • Wheezing
  • Pale appearance
  • Fainting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Persistent coughing

How to Treat a Food Allergy Rash

A food allergy rash actually doesn’t last very long, oftentimes clearing up in less than 48 hours. It is important to keep track of what your baby ate prior to the rash forming so that you can revisit your list should another rash appear later. You may also want to start a food journal and continue to keep track of what your child eats in the coming weeks and months. This can help you determine if there are other allergies. 

Even though rashes often go away on their own, they can be itchy and uncomfortable. Thankfully, there are some things that can provide relief. 

Treating a Mild Food Allergy Rash

If your baby has a small rash that is confined to one area of his body and you suspect it was caused by food, you are most likely dealing with a mild food allergy. One of the best ways to treat a rash is with an antihistamine. Antihistamines block the histamine response, which helps clear up the rash. Be sure to ask your doctor about types and dosage before administering antihistamines to your baby. 

You can also apply hydrocortisone cream to the area which will help relieve the itchiness. Hydrocortisone cream will not cause the rash to go away but can provide some relief.

Continue to monitor your baby in case the mild reaction turns severe. 

Treating a Severe Food Allergy Rash

If your baby develops a widespread rash all over his body shortly after eating, you should call your doctor immediately. He could be experiencing an allergic reaction that can become life threatening if not treated right away. Continue to monitor your baby as you make your way to your doctor so you can inform the staff of other symptoms. 

More About Food Allergies

Food allergies can develop at any time, though it is more rare to develop a food allergy late in life. Usually, they are detected early in childhood, when the child reacts to a certain food. As noted previously, often the first sign of a food allergy is a rash. If you suspect your child has developed a rash as a result of a food allergy, you may want to learn more about allergies and how to proceed safely. 

Learn more from the Mayo Clinic on food allergic reactions:

Allergies in Children vs in Adults

Both adults and children alike develop food allergies, though what they become allergic to often varies. Children are more likely to be allergic to cow’s milk, eggs, and peanuts, or tree nuts whereas the most common food allergens for adults is shellfish and finned fish. In either case, both adults and children are likely to develop a rash after eating an offending food. 

Peanut and tree nut allergies are more likely to cause serious reactions than the other allergies, but any allergy can become severe at any time.

Getting Tested for Food Allergies

The only way to determine if your child’s rash was caused by a food allergy is to make an appointment to undergo food allergy testing. Once you have talked to your doctor about possible causes for the rash and applied any acute medical care needed, you should make an appointment for your child to get tested for food allergies. There are a few ways this is done. You and your doctor will work together to determine the best testing for your child. 

  • Oral Food Challenge

In this method of diagnosing a food allergy, your doctor will give your baby a small amount of the suspected food and watch him closely to see if he develops an allergic reaction. An oral food challenge is a safe, accurate method when used under the direct supervision of a doctor. This is the most accurate way to determine a true food allergy. 

  • Skin Prick Test

During this test, your doctor will prick your child’s skin with the suspected allergen and watch to see if a rash develops around the area. Since a food allergy rash is often the first symptom of an allergy, this is a fairly accurate way to see if your child is allergic to a specific food. 

  • Blood Test

When your child undergoes blood testing for allergies, your doctor will check for IgE antibodies in the blood. The presence of these antibodies will indicate an allergy to a specific food or variety of foods. 

The Bottom Line

If your child develops a rash shortly after eating, you should take note of the suspected food and stop feeding to your child right away. You may want to start a food journal to monitor your child’s food intake and any potential rashes or other symptoms that might arise. 

If the rash is mild and limited to one small part of the child’s body, you can treat it with antihistamines or with topical hydrocortisone cream after first discussing treatment options and dosages with your child’s doctor. If your child develops a major rash that is widespread, you should contact your doctor immediately and watch for signs of anaphylaxis.  

Talking to your doctor about the rash is important both in the treatment of the rash and in discovering the cause. If you and your doctor think a food may be the cause of your child’s rash, you should continue to keep the suspected food away from your child and schedule allergy testing. There are a few different tests your doctor may use to determine if your child has a food allergy

Discovering your child has a food allergy can be a scary time for parents, but there are many ways to manage food allergies in children. Learning more about food allergies, their causes, signs, and symptoms, and management are all ways parents can be prepared. 

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All health-related content on this website is for informational purposes only and does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the advice of your own pediatrician in connection with any questions regarding your baby’s health.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.  

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