In a previous blog, I touched on common signs and symptoms that suggest that a child might have allergies, and discussed some common allergy triggers. So, what to do you do if your child does indeed have allergies?
Here are some more tips from The American Academy of Pediatrics Guide to Your Child's Allergies and Asthma about living with allergies.
Home management for allergic nasal symptoms
Nasal allergy symptoms can be caused by a variety of environmental allergens, both indoor (dust mites, pets, and pests) and outdoor (pollens). Molds, which can be found indoors and outdoors, can also trigger nasal allergy symptoms.
An important step in managing allergy symptoms is to avoid the troublesome allergens that trigger the symptoms in the first place. Easier said than done, right? Here are some ideas:
Don’t get a pet. If your child is allergic to pets, the addition of pets to your family would not be recommended.
Limit exposure to a home pet. If your child has severe allergy symptoms and is allergic to a pet that lives with your family, the only way to have a significant impact on your child’s exposure to pet allergens is to find the pet a new home. At the very least, make sure the pet does not sleep with your child, or go into your child’s room, since that's where your child spends the most time.
Get rid of the pests. If your child is allergic to pests (e.g., cockroaches), hiring a professional exterminator, sealing holes and cracks that serve as entry points for pests, storing foods in plastic containers with lids, and cleaning up food remains meticulously can all help to eliminate pests and reduce allergen levels.
Kill the mites. Dust mites congregate where moisture is retained and where 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 in hot water; wash other bedding such as blankets every 1 to 2 weeks in hot water. (The minimum temperature to kill mites is 130 degrees, but if you set your water heater higher than 120 degrees--the recommended temperature for avoiding accidental scald burns--you'll have to pay attention when to cool down the bath water for young children.
Minimize exposure to outdoor pollens. If your child is allergic to outdoor allergens, using air conditioners when possible can be helpful. Showering or bathing at the end of the day will remove allergens from body surfaces and hair. For patients with grass-pollen allergy, remaining indoors when grass is mowed, and avoiding playing in fields of tall grass can be helpful. Children with allergies to molds should avoid playing in piles of dead leaves in the fall.
Medications to control symptoms
Your child's allergy treatment should start with your pediatrician, who may refer you to a pediatric allergy specialist for additional evaluations and treatments.
Allergy testing. This can be performed to determine which, if any, of these environmental allergens your child is allergic to. Your pediatrician can talk to you more about whether testing is indicated.
Antihistamines. Taken by mouth, they can help with itchy watery eyes, runny nose, and sneezing, as well as with itchy skin and hives. Some types may cause drowsiness. There are some antihistamine eye drops as well, which sometimes add more relief for itchy eyes.
Nasal corticosteroids. These are prescription only and sprayed into the nose. They are highly effective for allergy-symptom control and are widely used to stop chronic symptoms. Safe to use in children over long periods of time. Must be used daily.
Allergy immunotherapy.Immunotherapy, or "allergy shots," may be recommended to reduce your child's allergy symptoms. Allergy shots are only prescribed in patients who have had the allergy testing and whose allergies have been confirmed. If allergen avoidance and medications are not successful, allergy shots for treatment of respiratory allergies to pollen, dust mites, cat and dog dander, and outdoor molds can help decrease the need for daily medication.