Not only can allergies cause your child serious discomfort in the moment, allergic symptoms like a runny nose, congestion, itching, rash, and coughing/wheezing can also last for weeks or even months at a time. How can you find fast and effective relief for your child? A little investigation—with your doctor’s support—can go a long way toward helping your child feel better over the long term and providing allergy relief.
Three Tips for Allergy Relief
1. Rule out a cold
Because symptoms often overlap, it can be hard to distinguish between a common cold vs. allergies. Here are some differences:
Allergies typically don’t cause fever, as fever usually indicates an infection.
|Fever may be present.|
Allergies are often characterized by clear, thin nasal discharge, skin and eye irritation, breathing problems (cough, wheezing, etc.), itching, and swelling.
Children and babies with colds tend to have thicker nasal discharge and little to no itching.
Allergies can continue for weeks or more
A common cold usually lasts a few days
2. Identify specific allergies
If your child has allergies, you’ll want to identify any environmental factors (allergens) that activate them, inside and outside. Allergy testing can be very helpful—your allergy doctor may perform a skin test or radioallergosorbent (RAST) blood test, which picks up on antibodies to determine which allergens provoked them. Here are a few common causes for a child’s allergies:
Pets: It’s estimated that 10% of the population suffers from pet allergies. Many allergic reactions are triggered by fur, but dander and saliva can also be a culprit. As with any allergy, reducing the exposure is the best course of action for pet allergies or dramatically limit your child’s interaction with them. Occasionally you may have to find a pet with a less allergic response.
Pests: Insects may trigger allergies, too! Proper food storage and rigorous clean up, thoroughly sealing potential entry points to your home (like cracks and doorways), and even professional extermination can help. For dust mites, be sure to get allergen-proof be covers, wash bedding weekly in hot water, keep humidity low, wash stuffed toys, and try to mop once a week and clean dust-prone surfaces with a wet cloth. You might also try air conditioning, a dehumidifier, or a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter.
Mold: Your child may be allergic to mold growing inside your house or outdoors. Inside, use humidifiers and vaporizers when your child is sick or it is very dry, as these can increase the moisture that helps mold grow. Humidity and rain will foster mold outside—leaf piles can harbor mold, so keep your allergic child out of them. And if you have a pet, be sure they’re not tracking mold inside.
Pollen: The season for pollen will depend on your geographic location. Pollen is shed from trees, grasses, and weeds. Air conditioning can help as well as extra showers after going outside to remove pollen. Children with allergies to grass should stay inside when the grass is mowed and avoid playing in tall grass.
As you investigate, it’s also useful to understand how allergies intersect with other conditions. Asthma, for example, can be triggered by indoor allergens, outdoor allergens, and animal fur. Eczema, an allergic skin condition, tends to occur alongside allergies like hay fever and seasonal allergies. Allergies may indicate another medical condition and vice versa.
3. Control symptoms
In nearly all cases, the less a child is exposed to the cause of their allergy, the better. You can also try controlling the humidity where your child sleeps and using nasal saline. For further support, especially when it’s not possible for your child to avoid allergens, ask your doctor about the following treatments:
Antihistamines: Antihistamines help block the effect of histamine, which can stimulate itching, swelling, and mucus. They can be taken in a variety of forms, including tablet, liquid, and nasal spray. While effective, this treatment can cause drowsiness, so you may want to give antihistamines to your child at bedtime. Be sure to discuss the different types of antihistamines with your doctor; the older ones like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) are more sedating, whereas the newer ones like loratadine (Claritin) are less sedating.
Decongestants: Decongestants can relieve nasal stuffiness and congestion by constricting blood flow into the nasal tissues that antihistamines won’t help and can be taken in combination with antihistamines by mouth or topically. Potential side effects of decongestants include excess stimulation so this treatment should be used with care. These are typically not offered to young children and should be discussed with your doctor.
Cromolyn: Cromolyn sodium is a nasal spray that can reduce nasal allergy symptoms by preventing cells from releasing their response to allergens and be used long-term with little to no side effects. Taken 3-4 times per day, cromolyn can be somewhat inconvenient and difficult to build into a routine.
Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids, also known as steroids and cortisols, can be highly effective when used daily and are available in topical, spray, inhaler, pills, and liquid form. Nasal sprays are particularly effective and recommended and can be used long term to reduce the number of allergy-responsive cells that are in the nose. They don’t work immediately and can take days or weeks to work effectively.
Allergy Immunotherapy: Allergy shots can be useful for persistent respiratory allergies, specifically reactions to pollens, dust mites, pet dander, and mold. Immunotherapy (allergy shots) requires a medically proven allergy and involves a progression of shots over several months, requiring time to become most effective. By delivering progressively larger amounts of the allergen over time the body gets used to it and doesn’t have the same allergic response.
Of course, when the mucus starts flowing, a nasal aspirator can be a handy tool to clear little noses. The NozeBot is an electric nasal aspirator that provides hospital-strength suction and an ergonomic nosepiece that only requires two adult fingers to use—not an entire hand. It’s portable, rechargeable, adjustable, dishwasher-safe, and strong enough to make the suctioning experience quick and painless for child and adult.
Whichever route you go, be sure to work with your pediatrician or pediatric ENT to ensure safety and best results. Lean on their expertise so that everyone can feel better, faster.
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