Can My Child Have Anaphylaxis From Touching Their Allergen?

Love is in the air! 

Who else is gearing up for Valentine's Day?  As we’re getting ready for the celebration of love, we might be thinking about how this celebration affects us food allergy families.  For example,  does anybody wonder:

1. Whether eating chocolate filled with our child’s allergen will cause an anaphylactic reaction if we kiss them on the cheek after?  


2. If we have a great date with hubby and accidentally drip a bit of that allergenic dessert on our sleeve and then hug our food allergy kiddo after, will they have anaphylaxis?

Just to be clear, we’re talking about a contact reaction here, where none of the allergens actually get into our child's eyes, nose or mouth and the allergen stays on their skin.

Skin Contact Risk With Food Allergies

Contact Reaction Risks

If you’re new to food allergies or you’ve been at this awhile, contact reactions are something that can get easily confused and stressful.  If you’ve been checking out allergy Facebook groups, you might have seen comments like this:

“My son is contact reactive to peanuts” 


“My daughter reacts to milk on contact”.

When reading these statements it’s easy to think that kids will have anaphylaxis when they touch their allergen.  We may even begin to think that this could happen to OUR child if they touch their allergen.  But I want to put your minds at ease.  In reality, it’s VERY rare to have a systemic (anaphylactic) reaction due to touching an allergen. 

Allergy scare skin reaction

What Happens If My Child Touches An Allergen?

Even though touching an allergen doesn’t usually cause anaphylaxis, a localized reaction can happen.  Which means hives and itchiness in a small area at the site where the allergen touched the skin (usually an exposed area like arms or legs where clothing doesn’t cover).  But the important thing is that if the skin is intact, it should do the job it was made for and keep the allergen out of the system.  

But wait, you say; hives and itchiness are a symptom of anaphylaxis.  And you’re right.  If ANY allergic reaction happens (contact or otherwise), we need to WATCH carefully to see if the hives spread past a small area on the body to an area that wouldn’t have touched any allergens OR if there are other signs of anaphylaxis.  So if hives are showing up at all, we need to be vigilant and careful.  But there’s a good chance that localized hives (verses hives spread over a large area of the body), will just be a contact reaction.

The Importance of Washing Hands

Now, if that allergen is on hands and our kiddos don’t wash their hands before they rub their eyes, nose, mouth or the food they’re eating, it’s possible to get it into their system and THEN cause anaphylaxis.  Which is why it’s so important to teach our kids to wash their hands often AND not to touch their face during the day.  

So there you have it.  If I know us food allergy moms, we’ll be super careful no matter what, but I’m hoping that you’ll at least feel less stressed now that you know how to keep your child safe this Valentine's Day.  

Can Anaphylaxis Happen From A Hug?