What are allergies?

An allergy is the immune’s system reaction to a normally harmless substance. Children with allergies are often sensitive to more than one thing.

Common substances that cause allergies (allergens) in children include:

  • pollen
  • dust mites
  • molds
  • insect stings or bites
  • animal dander (including cat and dog allergies)
  • feathers
  • cockroaches
  • certain medications (like penicillin)
  • certain foods


Symptoms can range from mild to life threatening and may include:

  • sneezing, stuffiness or runny nose
  • red, itchy or watery eyes
  • skin rash or hives
  • shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing
  • upset stomach


To diagnose allergies, your child’s doctor may do allergy testing, either by testing the skin or through a blood test.


Treatment for allergies may include avoiding allergy triggers, medication to reduce symptoms or allergy shots (immunotherapy) to reduce the child’s reaction to the allergen over time.

Learn more about  Pediatric Pulmonology, Allergy, Immunology and Sleep services at Boston Children’s Health Physicians.