There’s no doubt that the symptoms of eczema can be very similar to the symptoms of an allergic reaction. Since an allergic reaction can be more dangerous, it’s important to know the difference between the two. 


Hives Are Not Eczema

Hives are allergic responses that involve the skin, and they are very different from eczema:

Allergic responses tend to appear within 4 hours and also resolve quickly with antihistamines or steroids. Hives are known for their raised bumps, reddish or pale skin, and often look like mosquito bites. Allergic reactions usually cover a large area of skin, and get itchy very fast. 

Hives from an allergic reaction

Hives from an allergic reaction.

Baby eczema, on the other hand, is chronic. It is slow to develop and slow to resolve. Eczema patches are very dry and don’t have the same raised characteristic of hives. Eczema tends to form in distinct patches, and unlike hives, it takes more time to go away.

Eczema on a baby

Eczema appears in larger patches and takes longer to go away.

 

Signs of a Food Allergy in Babies

An allergic reaction to food most commonly presents as:

  • Redness around the mouth
  • Hives 
  • Stomach distress such as vomiting or diarrhea 
  • Runny or stuffy nose, sometimes with clear discharge
  • Redness or itchiness of the nose
  • Swelling of the face, including puffiness around the eyes
Redness around baby's mouth due to allergic reactionRedness around the mouth during an allergic reaction.
Swelling under baby's eye due to allergic reactionSwelling of the face and eye area from an allergic reaction.

While more serious symptoms are very rare, serious symptoms of a food allergy in babies include:

  • Coughing/wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Swelling of the mouth, including the lips and possibly tongue
  • Temperature < 97 degrees or a Fever of 101 degrees or higher
  • Swelling of the throat and difficulty swallowing
  • Weak pulse
  • Losing consciousness 

Allergic reactions happen almost immediately after eating a food. In rare cases, however, reactions can happen up to 4 hours later. Since most babies eat every 2 to 3 hours, delayed reactions can be difficult to diagnose. 



What To Do If Your Baby Has an Allergic Reaction 

If your baby has a mild reaction, such as redness around the mouth or hives, an age- and weight-appropriate amount of Benadryl (most likely 2.5ml) will reduce the reaction. Call your pediatrician’s office and stay with your baby. Most pediatricians have an on-call service to help you decide if additional help is needed. 

If your baby has a severe reaction such as coughing or wheezing, or both skin symptoms AND stomach symptoms, bring them to an emergency room immediately for observation and help. 

Most parents don’t realize having two types of a mild reaction is considered a severe reaction. It means that your baby’s body is responding aggressively, and a doctor should evaluate your baby to make sure the reaction has passed. 

After either a mild or severe reaction, your baby will be referred to a specialist to properly diagnose the food allergy and give you an action plan moving forward.