How to Know if your Infant has Allergies? Take this quiz to find out.
Can infants have seasonal allergies?
What are infant allergy symptoms? And when can you test for allergies in infants?
I’ve written this post to help you GET ANSWERS for all your allergy questions. And I’ve also including an easy, 5 minute QUIZ to get personalized help for your infant’s allergy symptoms.
Note: I’ve written this article addressing seasonal allergies in infants (age < 6 months).
If this article is not what you’re looking for, here are other articles I’m working on:
- Seasonal allergies in babies (age 6 months – 2 years)
- Seasonal allergies in toddlers (age 2 years to 4-5 years)
- Food allergies in infants and babies
- Other allergic reactions in infants and babies
Just click the link you want and I’ll prioritize these articles for you.
I have a 2-month-old with allergy symptoms. Can infants have seasonal allergies? I’m not sure what to look for and I was hoping you could help. My husband thinks it our dog but I’m not sure. Is there a good test for infant allergies? Thanks.
Your question is a common one… and one that needlessly costs parents around $500 to solve!
I know you’d spend $500 to help your baby feel better and fix their seasonal allergy symptoms.
But you don’t have to!
In this post, I give you the exact answer you would have gotten by seeing an allergist. So now you can save that money and treat yourself to something nice!
Breakdown of this Article:
I’ve tried to make this informative and entertaining. I’ve also tried to make this the ONLY article you must read to get all your answers about allergies in infants (I know… you time is valuable and limited… let me help).
I recommend reading this entire article (it’s skimmable) but if you want to jump straight to a section, here’s your chance:
- What are infant allergy symptoms?
- When do seasonal allergies in infants first show up?
- What about cat or dog allergy in infants
- When and how to test for infant allergies
- What else causes infant seasonal allergy symptoms?
- Best infant allergy medications
- Next steps
Who should read this article?
I’ve targeted this article to address seasonal allergies in infants (age less than 6 months).
You should read this article if you:
- Think your baby might have seasonal allergies
- You want to know signs and symptoms of allergies in infants
- If you’re worried about infant allergies to dogs or cats
- If you want to know how and when to test allergies in infants
- If you want an article about treatment, read this article first and then read my second article on the best allergy medication for your little one.
Can Infants Have Seasonal Allergies?
I need to know RIGHT NOW!
As an allergist, I love talking about allergies in infants. But I know you (and most people, if I’m being honest) probably don’t care about the nuances of infant allergies.
I also know you’re busy (that is, unless you have one of those magical unicorn babies that is quiet, nice, and “is so easy she immediately slept through the night”… and if you do, I hate, and also envy, you).
So, to help, I made a quick, 5 minute (7 question) quiz you can fill out and get a personalized answer right from me.
What are infant allergy symptoms?
Spoiler alert: it’s very hard to tell, even for an allergist!
Normal seasonal allergy symptoms are itchy, runny, sneezy nose along with itchy, watery eyes and happen with a specific trigger or season. And the signs of allergies in infants are the same, right?
Nope. Here’s the problem with infant allergy symptoms:
Infant allergy symptoms
Cold / infection symptoms
Other diagnosis symptoms
Normal baby symptoms
As you can see, there are no easy signs of allergies in infants. So your little ones symptoms are not valuable in determining if your child has seasonal allergies, if they have a cold or respiratory infection, if they have something else or if they have normal baby mucous.
The most important answer to figuring out allergies in infants comes from their AGE!
When do seasonal allergies in infants first show up?
Three things must happen for your baby to develop seasonal allergies:
- Your child must be able to produce antibodies
- They must have pollen exposure
- And they must produce IgE antibodies against the pollen allergen
Assessing allergies in infants — Age < 6 months
When your child was first born, their only protection against infection is through the antibodies given to them by mom before birth!
This is kind of awesome. Instead of being at an infection risk while their immune system develops, they’re safe because mom’s IgG antibodies crossed the placenta and are protecting them!
But this is also necessary… because your infant cannot produce their own immune system response for the first 6 months and don’t reach full strength until about 12 months.
I know, I know: thanks for the cool trivia… but how does this relate to allergies?
To understand seasonal allergies in infants, you need to know two facts:
- Mom’s allergy antibodies CANNOT cross the placenta
- Your baby doesn’t make their own antibodies for the first 6-12 months!
This means that your infant has NO IgE antibodies and are incapable of reacting to allergens.
I can tell you the allergies are NOT the causing your 2-month-old’s allergy symptoms.
Your infant can’t make the allergy antibody for the first 6–12 months and there are’t allergy antibodies from mom.
So your infant CAN’T have allergies!
Something else is causing your infant’s allergy symptoms.
Now, there are two types of readers at this point:
- If the above statement makes sense and you’re in a rush, you can jump down to see what else could cause your infant’s symptoms.
- If you are a curious (or skeptical) parent, or one who wants to know all the details, keep reading below.
What about cat or dog allergy in infants?
Babies have same pathway to dog and cat allergies as they do to seasonal allergies:
- Your infant must be able to produce antibodies
- Then they have pet allergen exposure
- Then they must produce IgE antibodies against the pet allergen
Since your infant can’t produce the allergy antibody yet, they can’t have true cat or dog allergy in infants (in the first 6 months). If a pet is suspected, it is most likely an irritant trigger and not a true allergy.
Now, babies can produce an allergic response to dogs or cats sooner than pollen (usually between age 1-2), but I address that more in my article on seasonal allergies in babies.
Can you prevent cat or dog allergies in infants?
I just explained why your infant’s allergies can’t be to pet or pollen. But I wanted to take this opportunity to toss out a little extra bit of advice.
Have you ever considered that you might be able to PREVENT pet (and possibly pollen) allergies in infants?
Here is a review of a few great studies:
- Kids who had a cat at home during the first year of life were 50% less likely to be allergic to cats than children not exposed from birth to 1 year1
- Boys who had dogs in the home during the first year had a decreased risk of dog allergy1
- Children living with both a dog and cat between birth and age 9 were less likely to have allergies by age 132
- Exposure to 2 or more dog or cats in the first year of life were less likely to develop dog and cat allergy and dust mite and ragweed allergies3
- These benefits are most seen in children with low risk for allergies and less for high risk children
Exposure to pets during the first years of life when the immune system is forming might help prevent pet allergies. So if have a dog or cat during this time, it is possible you can reduce the chance of your infant developing allergies.
Note all the doctor disclaimer words: possible, might, etc. This is not a promise… but according to the hygiene hypothesis and these studies, it is possible.
When and how to test for infant allergies?
I hope that everything makes sense and if it does, you are questioning the point of testing for seasonal allergies in infants.
And you’re right: there is no need to test for seasonal allergies in infant.
But that doesn’t mean allergists won’t test.
Many allergists think if you show up, you want to test for your infant’s allergies and it is ‘their duty to test you’ (and they forget to tell you that allergists get reimbursed for allergy testing… so bye bye $500!).
That’s not my opinion and here’s why:
- If I test for infant allergies and it’s negative, we already knew they have no allergy antibodies.
- If I test for infant allergies and it’s positive, then I would call it false positive and STILL would consider more common causes first.
So why would I test if it doesn’t change the plan?
Note: This advice is for seasonal and pet infant allergies. It’s different with food so I’m writing an entire article on Food allergies in infants and babies.
What else causes infant seasonal allergy symptoms?
Finally, we’re getting somewhere!
I know pet and pollen allergies are not causing your infant’s allergy symptoms. So what is the actual problem?
Here are the top 5 alternative causes for symptoms of allergies in infants:
- Cold / upper respiratory infection — If your infant’s allergy symptoms just started, they could have a cold/infection.
- This usually comes with fevers
- There are other sick contacts (family, friends, daycare)
- They might also pull their ear or rubbing their face
- Your darling baby might be more fussy than usual
- Often gets better after a few weeks but if it lasts > 2 weeks, consider antibiotics
- Teething—teething is commonly mistaken for infant allergies.
- Teething starts between 3-12 months, but 6 months on average
- They might have a low grade fever
- Often has drooling in addition to sometimes nasal symptoms
- Can have swollen or bleeding gums
- Sleep irritability is also something possible (I wouldn’t know… my kids are terrible sleepers)
- Irritant rhinitis—if your baby’s symptoms seem to happen with exposure to dust or dirt, exposure to pet fur, after exposure to cigarette smoke, camp fire or other irritants then theri your infant’s allergy symtpoms might be due to an irritant reaction.
- They usually have clear or white mucous from the nose
- Often after a known irritant exposure
- Often gets better on its own but using a saline spray can help
- Acid reflux—Finally, acid reflux is a common alternative cause of infant allergies. If your baby has symptoms worse after eating OR at night, consider acid reflux.
- Symptoms worse at night, after laying down or after eating
- Often presents as food regurgitation or spitting up
- Might be fussy when sleeping
- Nose symptoms might be worse at night or first thing in the morning (although not always)
Not sure if any of those sound like your child? Then fill out this quick, 5 minute quiz and let me give you more personalized advice.
The best infant allergy medications
Now, recommending medications is too broad a topic to be tossed into this post. But I know you came here for solutions, not just for a gee-whiz article about infant allergies.
So I’ve included a link to my post on the best infant allergy medications (the article will post in 2 days).
You started this article wondering what causes infant allergy symptoms and wondering if your infant had seasonal allergies. And you learned this is the answer:
Can infants have seasonal allergies?
- No, their immune system has not developed to produce the IgE antibody
- There are no allergy antibodies passed from mom to child
- And they can’t have pet allergies at this age
If your infant has allergy symptoms, instead consider 4 alternative causes that are most likely causing their symptoms:
- Colds/ infections
- Irritant rhinitis / irritant allergies
- Acid reflux
It would be best to see your primary care provider and assess these possibilities and save yourself $500 that would be wasted on an allergist at this age.
If you want more personalized advice, just fill out this easy, 5 minute quiz and I’ll do my best to help you.
First, to help your child, consider making a primary care appointment to check for non-allergy causes or email me to see what the next step is. I know you’re busy and have a lot on your plate… let me help.
And second, if you are a part of any mom groups or newborn groups, consider sharing this. You’ve seen this is a decent article and odds are this article will help many people in those forums.
- Wegienka, G., et al. “Lifetime dog and cat exposure and dog- and cat-specific sensitization at age 18 years.” Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 41: 979–986.
- Mandhane, Piush J. et al. “Cats and dogs and the risk of atopy in childhood and adulthood” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology , Volume 124 , Issue 4 , 745 – 750.e4
- Bufford, J. D. et al. “Effects of dog ownership in early childhood on immune development and atopic diseases.” Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 38: 1635–1643.
- Fasce, Lilia et al. “‘Early’ cat ownership and the risk of sensitization and allergic rhinitis in Ligurian children with respiratory symptoms.” Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology , Volume 94 , Issue 5 , 561 – 565.