Signs & Symptoms

Learn how to recognize the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction so that you can give life-saving treatment early.  Most allergic reactions happen within minutes to a few hours after contact with an allergen.  Reactions can differ each time.  Keep in mind that an allergic reaction can start with mild symptoms that can get worse quickly.2 3 

Don’t depend on seeing hives!  Some anaphylactic reactions occur without any skin symptoms (e.g. hives or swelling).14

An allergic reaction can involve any of the following symptoms, which may appear alone or in any combination.2 3 4 Make sure to talk to your child’s doctor about how to recognize anaphylaxis.

Signs_Symptoms of Anaphylaxis (685x412px)

Small children can have a hard time describing their symptoms.  They may complain of a “funny feeling” in their mouth or throat.  Be aware of words that children may use to describe an allergic reaction.  They may say, “my mouth feels funny” or “my tongue is itchy”.

It is not possible to know how bad an allergic reaction will be. Don’t ignore early symptoms, even if they seem mild, especially if your child has had a reaction in the past.

2. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID)-Sponsored Expert Panel. “Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States: Report of the NIAID-Sponsored Expert Panel.” The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 126.6 (2010): S1-S58.

3. Sampson, H.A. et. al. “Second symposium on the definition and management of anaphylaxis: Summary report—Second National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease/Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network symposium.” The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 117.2 (2006): 391-397.

4. Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Anaphylaxis in School & Other Settings. 2
nd Ed. Revised. 2011.

14. Sampson, H.A., Mendelson, L. and Rosen, J.P. “Fatal and near-fatal anaphylactic reactions to food in children and adolescents.” New England Journal of Medicine 327 (1992): 380-384.



The information in this handbook is for educational purposes only. It is meant to help people learn how to manage a child’s allergies. It is not meant to give specific medical advice, recommendations, diagnosis, or treatment.

Readers should not rely on any information contained in this handbook as a replacement or substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis or treatment. Nor should they delay getting professional medical advice or treatment because of information contained in this handbook. Medical knowledge is constantly developing.

Please speak with your child’s doctor or other healthcare professional before making any medical decision that affects your child or if you have any questions or concerns about their food allergies.

The authors of this handbook – Michael Pistiner, Jennifer LeBovidge and Anaphylaxis Canada – as well as individual contributors and reviewers will not be held responsible for any action taken or not taken based on/or as a result of the reader’s interpretation (understanding) of the information contained herein.

Please note that AllergyHome is not affiliated with Boston Children’s Hospital

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