Think your child might have allergies? The American Academy of Pediatrics offers these seven tips and suggests you start with a pediatrician, who can then refer you to an allergy specialist:
1. Allergies can feel like a cold, and symptoms can include runny nose, stuffy nose, itchy nose and/or eyes, and sneezing. Some children might also have headaches and/or fatigue. Allergy symptoms can get in the way of school, fun and family time. Ask your pediatrician about medications to manage allergies. Here are common treatments:
- Antihistamines –Taken by mouth, they can help with itchy watery eyes, runny nose and sneezing, as well as itchy skin and hives. Some types cause drowsiness.
- Nasal Corticosteroids – Highly effective for allergy symptom control and widely used to stop chronic symptoms. Safe to use in children over long periods of time. Must be used daily for maximal effectiveness.
2. Knowing what your child is allergic to can be an important step in finding the right treatment. Allergy testing should be performed to determine whether your child is allergic to any environmental allergens. Nasal allergy symptoms can be caused by a variety of environmental allergens including indoor allergens such as dust mites, pets, and pests as well as outdoor allergens such as pollens. Molds, which can be found indoors and outdoors, can also trigger nasal allergy symptoms.
3. An important step in managing allergy symptoms is avoidance of the allergens that trigger the symptoms. If your child is allergic to pets, the addition of pets to your family would not be recommended. If your child has allergy symptoms and is allergic to a pet that lives in your home, the only way to have a significant impact on your child’s exposure to pet allergens is to find the pet a new home.
4. If your child is allergic to pests in the home, professional extermination, sealing holes and cracks that serve as entry points for pests, storing foods in plastic containers with lids and meticulous cleanup of food remains can help to eliminate pests and reduce allergen levels.
5. Dust mites congregate where moisture is retained, and food for them (human skin scales) is plentiful. They are especially numerous in bedding, upholstered furniture, and rugs. Padded furnishings such as mattresses, box springs, and pillows should be encased in allergen-proof, zip-up covers, which are available through catalogs and specialized retailers. Wash linens weekly and other bedding, such as blankets, every 1 to 2 weeks in hot water. (The minimum temperature to kill mites is 130 degrees Fahrenheit. If you set your water heater higher than 120 degrees, the recommended temperature to avoid accidental scald burns, take care if young children are present in the home.)
6. If your child is allergic to outdoor allergens, it can be helpful to use air conditioners when possible. Showering or bathing at the end of the day to remove allergens from body surfaces and hair can also be helpful. For patients with grass pollen allergy, remaining indoors when grass is mowed and avoiding playing in fields of tall grass may be helpful during grass pollen season. Children with allergies to molds should avoid playing in piles of dead leaves in the fall. Pets tracking in and out of the house can also bring pollen and mold indoors.
7. Ask your pediatrician about allergy immunotherapy. Immunotherapy, or allergy shots, may be recommended to reduce your child’s allergy symptoms. Allergy shots are prescribed only for patients with confirmed allergy. If allergen avoidance and medications are not successful, allergy shots for treatment of respiratory allergies to pollens, dust mites, cat and dog dander, and molds can help decrease the need for daily medication.