Allergy Behaviors in Children

By Sharon Perkins
Allergies can cause more than physical symptoms such as sneezing.
Allergies can cause more than physical symptoms such as sneezing.

Recognizing that your child has allergies to food or other substances isn't always easy. Allergy symptoms aren't necessarily severe; they can range from skin outbreaks to respiratory or gastrointestinal problems. Allergies can also cause behavioral changes in children that you might not attribute to a physical condition. If certain seasons or foods appear to affect your child's behavior, especially if he also has physical allergy symptoms such as runny nose, wheezing, sneezing, rash or abdominal pain, talk to his doctor about allergy testing.

Sleep Issues

Allergic rhinitis is the most common chronic disorder in children, according to an international study published in the April 2012 issue of "Asia Pacific Allergy." An allergic reaction to pollen that causes, sneezing, sniffling, coughing, runny nose and itching, this condition can interfere with sleep. Lack of sleep leads to fatigue and sleepiness during the day. Children with allergic rhinitis are also more likely to snore and suffer from sleep apnea.

Cognitive Changes

Allergies can interfere with your child's ability to concentrate, remember and think clearly, which can lead to poor school performance, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Medications given to treat allergic symptoms can worsen behavioral changes caused by allergies. Fluid behind the eardrums can also cause dizziness, ringing in the ears or trouble hearing, which can impact your child's school performance.

Hyperactivity or Irritability

Allergic rhinitis might increase the risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children. A Thai study published in the March 2011 issue of the "Asian Pacific Journal of Allergy and Immunology" found that children with ADHD have a higher incidence of a positive pinprick test for allergies as well as a higher percentage of allergic rhinitis than children without the disorder. It's important to determine whether hyperactivity or irritability are caused by ADHD or are related to general discomfort from itching, runny nose or coughing.


It's not well understood why allergies can lead to behavioral changes. Lack of sleep from sleep disruption is the most likely cause of these behavioral changes, says the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Other researchers hypothesize that allergies cause the release of certain chemicals in the central nervous system that contribute to behavioral changes, according to a 2002 article in "Psychosomatic Medicine."

About the Author

A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.