19 answers

What Is the Problem?

Hi Moms -

My 3 yr old son has been breaking out in hives for the last 2-3 days. He is itching like crazy! I started to think that it was because I changed my fabric softener sheets. The box said that they were comparable to Bounce (which is what I used to buy). Now, he started with the runs. There was a little yest. but I didn't think much of it. This morning, it is full blown runs. Are these symptoms possibly connected? What is the problem? Any ideas would be helpful.


1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

There are so many food/chemical/other allergies that it's hard to say. I break out in hives from a nut allergy I have. I also know a child who breaks out in hives and has stomache issues when he has nuts. Nut allergies can become severe, so I would rule this out first.

get him to the Dr, he could have 5th disease or even strep throat -- both cause rashes that can resemble hives!

More Answers

Your child should be seen by a Doctor. A child (or anyone for that matter) can develop allergies at any time. Symptoms may or may not be connected. Does your child have a fever, runny or stuffed up nose? Keep in mind, we are now entering Ragweed season and this could also be a concern if you are near those forest preserves. Corn and other crops are also maturing in the surrounding fields.

Have you given your child Benadryl and have the hives responded to the medication? He should be taking something and you should see some kind of positive response to the medication. Hives can just be a precursor to a more serious allergic reaction, such as anaphylaxic so he should be treated.

If you are trying to narrow down the culprit and you think it could be the fabric softener, I would definitely re-wash any clothes & bedding that he could come in contact with.

Also, is he eating more fruit? berries, watermelon, etc.. ? Upon first ingesting these, he may have been fine, but he could have developed an allergic reaction so, please, when you do bring your child to the Doctor, possibly try to think of all he could have eaten over the last few days (newly introduced as well as old favorites) just to see if there is any pattern.

If you can't get your child to the Doctor, at least, head over to your trusted Pharmacist who can look at your child and give you their professional and free opinion. My Pharmacist has been my lifesaver, at times. It's good to get to know them.

Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi R.,

I know this is a late response, but I just thought I would add that I started using vinegar in the washer instead of fabric softener or dryer sheets and it works great! And no chemicals on our clothes. I just pour the same amount of white vinegar in the washing machine's little receptacle thingy (what's that called anyway?? lol!) and the clothes come out nice and soft. The towels are more absorbant too because they don't have the fabric softener "film" on them. The vinegar smell is only there while the clothes are wet. After they are dry they just smell like nothing--which is really what clean is! I LOVE this trick! It's cheaper and no chemicals. The only thing is that you can't use bleach in the washer because vinegar and bleach have a chemical reaction together, but I don't use bleach anyway so it's no biggie for me. Just thought I'd share this, since your child may be allergic to the harsh dryer sheet chemicals. Good luck!!! :-)

1 mom found this helpful

Sounds like allergies - and if he has diarrhea than he is allergic to a food. With hives I would take it very seriously. Try to get in to see a pediatric allergist ASAP. Usually a reputable office will see a child in a day or so that is having an allergic reaction. (I have gone to Associated Allergists of Highland Park - they were very good - and I now go to Dr. Ewa Schafer in Glenview/Skokie - she is excellent). Also - definitely give him children's Benadryl in the meantime - contact your doctor's office for dosage (it depends on weight). Good luck and I hope you find out exactly what is causing it.

There are so many food/chemical/other allergies that it's hard to say. I break out in hives from a nut allergy I have. I also know a child who breaks out in hives and has stomache issues when he has nuts. Nut allergies can become severe, so I would rule this out first.

It could be chicken pox. My son had them when he was about that age and he had a low-grade fever, the red hives and it also gave him diarrhea. It could be an allergic reaction, but rule out chicken pox too!

get him to the Dr, he could have 5th disease or even strep throat -- both cause rashes that can resemble hives!

Yes they probably are connected. First time I had a bad reaction to peanuts I had hives then the runs. Did you give him some benadryl for the hives? I would think about what he ate that day. Usually the diarrhea would be from something he ingested. I would ask the Dr. though, no one else can give you the correct answer really.

Hi R. Take your son to see his pediatrican instead of getting advice over the internet. He needs to be examine by a doctor. It could be a number of things.

Check with your pediatrician immediately!

Sound like it could be an allergy to a specific food. Think back did you make any changes in his diet or add a new food?
Does he happen to be on any antibiotics. My son would react to antibiotics with rash and diarrhea.
I do not think that fabric sheets can cause the diarrhea. If you are concerned you should really call his doctor and make an appointment. A doctor is the only one that can make a good diagnoses.

Hi Rye, I know it is late in the day but I just thought I would tell you my story. My daughter at about 10 yrs old started with hives... I went to the doctor immediately.. Well the school actually kicks you out until it is diagnosed.. This was the beginning of a very long road... Numerous doctors of varying skills literally scratched their heads & said "I have no idea" Great.. in the mean time nearly every night like clock work my child was breaking out in hives covering 30%-90% of her body. Benadryl probably saved us many ER trips..... Somewhere through this we finally decided to have her allergy tested for foods.. Only foods. At the tests the Doctor said she was sorry that our daughter was literally going to be the "girl in a bubble" she came back allergic to EVERYTHING. You have never seen anything like it. I did not believe the tests. For goodness sake, how could she be alive and breathing if she was that allergic. I went to a local chiropracter we had seen in the past. We did an MSA test, and we chose to use herbs specific to her body & I am very happy to tell you she is wonderful now. She can eat anything, and she is playing sports and being a normal 15 yr old child. It is very scary your 3 yr old is going through this, I know I have been there, but there are so many allergies out there.. Actually I came to find out it is the "combinations" that get us typically..We either touch & eat 2 things we may never ever do/have again at the same time.... Should you like to pursue another avenue please feel free to email me I will give you his number. Good luck & please do keep benadryl on hand at all times..
A doctor should be consulted right away but if you get frustrated and it keeps happening there are options.
Take Care, C.

Has he been exposed to extreme sunlight? Any fever? Disinterested in eating? Any change in diet? Unwashed fruit or vegetables or has eaten any elsewhere (restaurant, daycare, street stand etc)? Eaten any meat, poultry, fish that may have been undercooked (home or out)? I'd try looking for any of those things as well.

I'd probably give him some Benadryl to eliminate some of the itching and bathe him w/Aveeno (works wonders for itching).

Maybe have him wear something that hasn't been treated by these sheets at all to rule them out and definitely call his doc! Good luck!

if he has the runs then it's an ingested allergen, not a contact one. So not the fabric softener. Does sound like allergies

Could be the sheets. I know particular sheets and laundry detergents give one of my children hives. I would rewash all his things and try some benadryl.

The could be symtoms of a food allergy; have you introduced any new foods?

Most definately could be connected. Almost everytime my daughter is exposed to an allergen (she has Mastocytosis)she will have a whole gamut of symptoms. They range from mild with just localized itching at the site to full blown anaphylaxis. Diarrhea will usually occur within 24-48 hours of onset for her for a moderate to severe reaction.

I would contact his Dr for this since it is not going away. If the itching is bad and Benedryl does not help then your Dr will likely prescribe a small course of steroids and probably also some Atarax/hydroxyzine along with an H2.

If you are going to try on your own ask your pharmacist which one would work best for your son along with the Benedryl- Tagamet, Zantac etc.The combined of the 2 will stabilze the mast cells which are degranulating causing the reaction he is having.

Make sure you NEVER mix topical Benedryl with oral Benedryl as it can cause an overdose of the active ingredient!!!!!!!! Just warning you since I have done it and thankfully nothing serious happened but since the skin is the largest organ on your body and it absorbs most things it can cause severe complications and worse!

Make sure you watch for mor severe symptoms of an allergic reaction as well. Tingling, flushing, drop in blood pressure, lethargy, swelling etc....

I hope all goes well and this clears up soon for you! Blessings to you and your little guy!

It sounds like an allergic reaction to something, but the runs issue shouldn't be related to a topical allergic reaction. (So if it is the fabric softener the runs shouldn't be because of that).

When does he break out? After he's eaten, when he wakes up? After playing outside?

Try to keep close track of everything he does before he breaks out, but to me it sounds like it is most likely a food allergy (if the runs are related).

Or if he breaks out after going outside it could be an allergy to some late summer plant.
Also, children can develop allergies at any time-my daughter used to love tilapia fish-we'd have it every couple of weeks, then all of a sudden she broke out in hives violently after eating it. We tried again several months later and almost ended up in the ER from her swelling. (She was 3.5)

One more thing-do the hives go away after benedryl-because another mom posted that Roseola is going around (but I don't know if it itches-chicken pox itch, but they start of as little hives and then they blister and scab).

If the two symptoms are unrelated, he could just be fighting off a mild stomach virus and have the runs as a result.


Hives need to be seen by a doc, especially when combined with runs. It could be viral, but still I think he should be seen. Fever? Sore throat? Could be strep- sometimes accompanied by warm, red hives (aka S. Fever) which responds well to antibiotics. An allergic reaction to a fabric sheet would resolve as soon as the immune system kicked in and you gave him a bath- shouldn't last 2-3 days. Has he been swimming in a lake or community pool in the past two weeks? He may have picked up something from the water and it is manifesting as hives (outside) and runs (inside). Call the pediatrician today. Good luck!

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