Non-food Allergies in Children

Non-food Allergies in Children

22 November 2021
Posted by: Chelsea

Children may be allergic to many things and many of those problems may be due to things other than foodstuffs.

Non-food allergies in children

The list of potential non-food allergens is almost endless. It might include:

  • dust and house mites;
  • pollens;
  • plastics or other synthetics;
  • harvest dust;
  • wool;
  • aerosols and air fresheners;
  • soaps and cleaning products;
  • pets – by contact or proximity;
  • insects;
  • etc.

Some argue that younger generations today are more prone to allergic reactions than ever before due to environmental issues. However, it is difficult to substantiate that.

How to recognise non-food allergies in children

There is no single reaction but in mild to moderate cases, look out for things such as:

  • slightly wheezy breath;
  • skin rashes/irritation;
  • red, irritated and weeping eyes;
  • blocked noses and constant sneezing;
  • catarrh and phlegm coughing – though a cough might also be tickly and dry;
  • possibly sinus-type headaches, stomach aches and vomiting.

Some allergic reactions are much more severe and may be life-threatening if urgent medical attention isn’t provided. This is called “anaphylaxis” or “anaphylactic shock”.

The symptoms here are typically very distinct and more alarming:

  • significant difficulty breathing and wheezing;
  • swollen mouth, tongue and lips;
  • suddenly becoming very pale;
  • collapse/fainting/dizziness;
  • vomiting and stomach pain after mild insect (non-venomous) bites;
  • possibly a loss of muscular control or rigidity;
  • difficulty in speaking;
  • low blood pressure.


In many cases that are mild to moderate, little treatment is required. A slightly runny nose or a mild localised rash aren’t necessarily a problem.

Even so, keep your child calm and quiet, preferably sitting down. Don’t allow them to continue to play physically demanding games until the issue has worn off.

If the symptoms are slightly more severe, you may wish to give your child an antihistamine which might be oral or a cream etc.

Make sure you have a child-friendly one that’s appropriate for their age and weight and prior to purchase, consult with your pharmacist or doctor about situations in which you may wish to use them. Check also for conflicts with any other medication your child may be on.

Don’t use antihistamines for children under 11 years of age unless you have taken medical advice first.

Anaphylaxis is a very different proposition. Medical attention must be provided immediately!

Antihistamines in this situation are rarely effective, as they are too slow to act in potentially life-threatening circumstances.

Generally, these circumstances require an injection of adrenaline directly into a muscle. This can be done by anyone with access to an ‘EpiPen’ type emergency injector and then an ambulance should be called immediately. Make sure you thoroughly read the instructions and obey any restrictions.

Even if the child seems to be recovering after the shot, still call the ambulance.

Speak to your doctor, well in advance of any emergency, about his or her views on emergency adrenalin injectors where younger children are involved. There are pens designed to deliver lower doses in the case of smaller children and some argue that a good emergency first-aid kit should stock 4 pens (2 of each dose type) ‘just in case’.

Remember, basic first-aid training is ALWAYS a good idea and preferably well before you’ve ever had to deal with an incident.

Identifying the allergen

Sometimes this is relatively easy – such as in the case of a bee sting.

In other situations, it is far more challenging and requires expert sensitivity testing. This can take time and isn’t always conclusive.

For mild allergies, some patience and self-experiment may be required (don’t do this if your child has had a severe reaction previously).

Consult your doctor for more advice.

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