menu toggle icon
Find Care:
Speech Therapy
Occupational Therapy
Physical Therapy
Read Expert Guides
How to help autistic kids manage their allergies

Autism and allergies: What to know

Updated: August 1, 2023 · 8 Minute Read

Alex Hurtado

Reviewed by:

Alex Hurtado


  • Autistic kids may be more prone to certain allergy-related conditions due to a weakened immune system.
  • Supporting your child's immune system through proper nutrition, hygiene, and reducing exposure to allergens can help manage their allergies.
  • Creating an allergy-friendly environment, educating your child about their allergies, and having emergency plans in place are important steps to ensure their safety and well-being.
  • Consulting with allergists or ENT doctors can provide additional guidance and support.

Autism and allergies: what to know:

We’ve got a whole guide about allergies that dives into this, but we’ll give you a brief breakdown.


Allergies happen when your child’s body takes something pretty harmless as a threat to their immune system. This could be pollen, dander, a specific food, or other allergen. When your child comes in contact with the allergen, the immune system attacks the threat with chemicals (like histamines), which causes inflammation (like a stuffy nose or a rash).


Autistic kids might be prone to more autoimmune related conditions than non-autistic kids. This includes allergies as well as autoimmune disorders. The immune system protects your child’s body from sickness, disease, and outside threats. In an autoimmune disorder, the body may confuse harmless things as threats.


Autistic kids may have more eosinophils in their body than other kids. Like histamines, eosinophils also cause inflammation while trying to protect our bodies. Research has shown autistic kids tend to have more inflammation in the brain and gut. One theory for this is that autistic kids have a lot more stress than non-autistic kids, which can cause a weakened immune system. A weakened immune system can cause your child to get sick more often than their peers.


How to support your child’s immune system:

  • Make sure your child is getting the nutrients they need. Many autistic kids are picky or selective eaters. This means they may not be getting all the vitamins and other goodness their bodies need to thrive. Consult with your child’s medical care team to figure out what nutrients your child needs more of. If your child is an extremely picky eater, consider feeding therapy to help them add new foods to their diet. Depending on what your child’s doctor says, you may need to add vitamins or supplements to your child’s routine.
  • Encourage good hygiene. Let’s face it — kids do gross stuff! Start your child right away on healthy habits like hand washing and teeth brushing. This is particularly important after eating and after using the bathroom. It may take your child some time to get the hang of it, but make these things a regular routine. Using tools like visual aids and timers can help.
  • Keep your child’s vaccinations up to date. Vaccines strengthen the immune system to protect from specific illnesses and diseases. Make sure your child is staying up to date with the vaccinations health professionals recommend for their age. (Pssst. Vaccines don’t cause autism — we debunk that and more autism myths here.)
  • Teach your child how to avoid germs. Not sharing food or drink with others, coughing into their elbow, or covering their mouth when they sneeze are all good practices to teach your child. You can use videos, books, or illustrations to show your child how germs work. Teach your child how to stay away from those who are sick and limit the spread of germs.
  • Keep your child hydrated. Make sure your child is consuming plenty of water and fluids. Staying hydrated is an essential part of feeling good and maintaining their immune system. Dehydration can make your brain feel fuzzy, tired, and grumpy. You may find that your child is much happier when they’re hydrated!
  • Go play! Give your child plenty of time to play, whether it’s inside, outside, at a park or gym. Not only will it help them meet their sensory needs and stay regulated, playing is a great way to keep your child’s immune system (and whole body) healthy. (You’ll appreciate them getting out their energy, too! It’s a win-win.)
  • Get plenty of ZZZs. Sleep is a crucial part of immune system function and the body’s healing and restoration process. You know how it is — without good sleep, you can’t function. Ensure your child is getting adequate sleep so their immune system can perform at its best. Sleep challenges are very common in autistic kids, sometimes due to those “hidden allergies” and inflammation we mentioned. If you need sleep tips, we’ve got an expert guide for helping your child sleep better.
  • Purify the environment. Tobacco smoke, pollution, and chemical exposure can weaken your child’s immune system. Try not to use any harsh chemicals (like cleaners) in your home. You may also want to avoid diffusers, air fresheners, or scented plug-ins, which can aggravate allergies and cause respiratory irritation. Consider putting an air purifier in your child’s room or other areas of your home. If you have any smokers or vape users in your household, make sure they only smoke outside and remove third-hand smoke from clothing, surfaces, and skin before coming back inside.
  • Help your child de-stress. As we mentioned, stress may be a reason so many autistic kids are prone to allergies and autoimmune challenges. Our kiddos have it tough, trying to navigate a world that isn’t built with them in mind. Many children experience burnout from masking, too many activities or therapies, and the demands of everyday life. Bullying, social pressure, family dynamics, school — all these things can cause your child stress. Support your child through stress by decreasing demands and increasing the things they love, like stimming. Above all, be understanding and patient.


Tips for managing your child’s allergies

A healthy immune system is the basis for fighting off allergy symptoms, but what else can you do to make allergies easier for your kiddo? Here are our top tips:

  • Create a visual schedule or timer to help your child take meds. If your child takes a daily allergy medication, incorporate it into their daily routine using a picture schedule, rewards chart, or a medicine timer on a wristwatch. You may use a combo of all these tools to help your child gain independence and consistency in taking their allergy medications. You can also explain to your child why they take allergy medication. For example, my son understands that he takes “pink” (his allergy medicine) for his stuffy nose. He is to the point now that he will ask for “pink” when his nose is stuffy! We’ve got more great medicine taking tips in our medicine guide.
  • Avoid your child’s triggers. This seems obvious, but it can be difficult to avoid allergens out in the real world or even at home. Your child may also have triggers you’re not aware of — like unidentified food allergies. Consult with an allergist to determine if your child has any allergies that could be causing them distress.
  • Create an allergy-friendly environment. An air purifier in your child’s room can help with airborne triggers at home. Using allergen-filtering furnace filters can help reduce allergens and improve air quality in your home. Carefully check labels on products to ensure you’re not bringing any food or chemicals into the house that your child is allergic to. Even something as innocent as an air freshener could pose an allergy risk to your child.
  • Teach your child about their own allergies and how to avoid triggers. You can’t be around to protect your child from every bee and every food allergy, so make sure you teach your child how to avoid their own triggers, too! Use illustrations, social stories, videos, or whatever teaching method works best for your child. Simple language is best. For example, “If you eat peanuts it will make it hard for you to breathe. Peanuts are not safe.” Face masks or protective clothing can be helpful for avoiding airborne or contact allergens.
  • Spread the word. Inform teachers, babysitters, neighbors, coaches, or anyone else in your child’s life of your child’s allergies. Make sure to clearly document all your child’s allergies on paperwork. In school and daycare settings, a visual reminder of food allergies near where food is prepped/served is a good idea.
  • Keep emergency allergic reaction supplies on hand. If your child has an Epi-pen or inhaler, we know we don’t have to remind you how important it is to keep one in every place your child frequents. Make it a priority to train your child how to spot the signs of an allergic reaction and teach them how to use the tool themselves. Make sure babysitters, daycare staff, teachers, etc. are also informed and trained.
  • Keep emergency allergy tools and medications in the same safe place all the time. For example, an Epi-pen in your child’s backpack, one in the glovebox of the car, etc. You may also want to keep Benadryl liquid or chewables, and cream on hand in case of contact allergies or allergic reactions at home. (Don’t use Benadryl cream and oral medication at the same time, as this can cause your child to overdose.) Keep in mind that the correct dosage will depend on the type of allergic reaction and your child’s age, weight, etc. (It’s best to consult with your child’s doctor before administering OTC medication.) In an emergency, you won’t have to hunt for what you need, you can just grab it and go.
  • Create an emergency plan in case your child has an allergic reaction. This is especially relevant if your child has severe allergies that could be life threatening. Along with your child’s pediatrician and allergist, come up with a plan of action in the event your child has an allergic episode. We don’t want these kinds of things to happen to our kids, but you’ll be so glad you planned ahead if something does happen.
  • Consider allergy shots. The purpose of allergy shots is to “expose” your child’s immune system to the allergen to “desensitize” their body to it. Over time, the body becomes less sensitive to the allergens, reducing the severity of allergic symptoms. Allergy shots have been found to be effective in treating allergic rhinitis (hay fever), allergic asthma, and insect sting allergies. If your child struggles with allergies on the regular, ask their pediatrician if allergy shots once per month or once every few weeks would be helpful.
  • Consult with an allergist. Some of your child’s allergies may not be immediately noticeable. You may not be aware of everything your child is allergic to, and what’s causing inflammation that makes it hard for your child to stay regulated and happy. An allergist can work with you to discover your child’s allergies and teach you what to avoid.
  • Consider seeing an ENT. An ear, nose, and throat doctor can be a really helpful addition to your child’s medical team. If your child frequently has sinus or ear infections, an ENT can help you figure out how to manage your child’s allergies to prevent infection. For example, my ENT and I decided to take my tonsils out because my chronic allergies were turning into sinus infections. Since removing my tonsils, I rarely get sick anymore, and my allergies are much more manageable.



Allergies can be tricky for kids with autism. Their bodies may be more prone to certain allergy-related conditions. They can also have “hidden” allergies which cause inflammation, discomfort, and even behavior concerns. You can help your child manage their allergies in many ways. Keeping their immune system healthy, teaching them how to avoid allergens, and working with their medical team — just to name a few. An allergist or ENT doctor may be a great addition to your child’s care team. To find an allergist, you can search the Beaming Directory!

Article References

  1. Fowler P. What Are Histamines? WebMD. Published June 6, 2016.
  2. 1.Miyazaki C, Koyama M, Ota E, et al. Allergies in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Review Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 2015;2(4):374-401. doi:
  3. ‌Jyonouchi H. Autism spectrum disorders and allergy: observation from a pediatric allergy/immunology clinic. Expert Review of Clinical Immunology. 2010;6(3):397-411. doi:
  4. Jyonouchi H. Food allergy and autism spectrum disorders: Is there a link? Current Allergy and Asthma Reports. 2009;9(3):194-201. doi:
  5. Zerbo O, Leong A, Barcellos L, Bernal P, Fireman B, Croen LA. Immune mediated conditions in autism spectrum disorders. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. 2015;46:232-236. doi:
  6. levo. What Does it Mean to “Outgrow” an Allergy?. Northeast Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Published July 16, 2021.