Allergy Signs in Children

Many parents of allergic children notice "allergic shiners" which are dark circles under their eyes, and worry. However, they are relieved to find out that shiners are some of facial features that suggest a child may have allergies, more specifically that the child is atopic. "Atopic" means that he or she is prone to certain allergic conditions including nasal allergies, food allergies, hay fever, eczema and asthma.

What are the "allergic signs"?

They are referred to as an "allergic or atopic facies" and yes,  one sign is the dark circles under the eyes or "allergic shiners'. Parents often worry that these mean their child is not to be getting enough sleep because of the dark circles under their eyes. Yet in reality, this is a part of the allergic look and not due to sleep deprivation. Allergic "shiners" are thought to be caused by increased blood flow near the sinuses.

Another sign we see around the eyes is less obvious. Children with allergies or an atopic tendency tend to have an extra skin fold or line under their lower eyelids. These folds or lines are called Denni-Morgan lines named after the doctors who first noticed the relationship between this extra fold of skin and an allergic tendency. Another sign of allergies, more specifically nasal allergies, is the "allergic salute". Children with nasal allergies, often have an itchy nose, among other symptoms. So as a result, their hand seems to always be scratching their nose as if they are saluting. Frequent throat clearing or hoarseness can be another feature of an allergy as well.

It is important to note that the presence of these signs does not automatically mean the child will develop allergies or related atopic conditions. Indeed, some children may have allergic shiners or an extra lower eye lid skin fold, and have no allergic signs or symptoms at all.

Are allergies inherited?

We know that allergies tend to run in the family. More specifically, if one parent has an allergic tendency, then there is about a 40% chance that their child will inherit the allergic tendency. If both parents are allergic, then the chance jumps to 75%. Again, even if one inherits the tendency, they may not necessarily develop allergies during their lifetime. Why some kids who inherit the tendency develop allergies while others don't is not well understood. Also, we do not understand why some children show signs of allergies at a very early age, while others only develop their first allergic symptoms well into adulthood.