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Allergies: what are they and how do they affect my child? – Los Angeles Sentinel | Los Angeles Sentinel

Spring weather can trigger allergies in children, especially those whose family members also have allergies. (Courtesy picture)

Imagine this: it’s spring and your child comes to you with sneezes, a stuffy or runny nose, itchy eyes, a scratchy throat and maybe even a rash. What’s going on?

It’s probably allergies. You may have heard of it as “hay fever.” This refers to allergies that only occur at certain times of the year. For each child, what triggers these symptoms may be different. Some of the most common triggers, or allergens, are found in the environment, such as pollen from trees, grass, or weeds.

Mold is another well-known trigger. Mold is more common in humid environments. Inside the house, pet dander or pests such as dust mites, cockroaches or even mice can be the culprit. In some cases, foods or medications may contain allergens.

These symptoms often mimic a cold. Caregivers may find it difficult to distinguish between the two. Generally, allergies are distinguished from colds because of the itchy rashes associated with the eyes or nose, as well as itchy rashes usually on folds of skin such as the elbows or knees.

Allergies are also more common in children whose family members also have allergies. They can develop at any age, but may first be discovered during a change in environment, such as moving to a new home or a new geographic area. If not managed with strategies or medications, these symptoms can be disruptive. They can affect a child’s ability to pay attention in school, spend time at home with family, or play with peers.

As a parent, there are many ways to manage allergies. The first step is to be aware of the symptoms and triggers. If your child’s symptoms are triggered by the outdoors, air quality can help you determine when your child may be most affected. Air quality is a measure of the importance of certain pollutants in the outdoor air.

Many weather apps will include the Air Quality Index (AQI), a daily rating of air pollution in your area. Your local air quality index is also available for free on These ratings use a color scale, from green (good air quality) to red (poor air quality), and a corresponding number from 0 (good) to 500 (poor).

These give you an idea of ​​the outside air quality for that day (and even for that particular hour) and a forecast for the next day. You can use this information to plan outdoor activities and determine precautions.

Sometimes children can have symptoms even when the air quality rating is the safest (less than 100). If your child goes out on these days, have him take a bath or shower, wash his hair, and change his clothes when he gets home to get rid of allergens. If possible, use the air conditioning instead of opening the windows on the windiest days to keep allergens out of the house.

Inside the house, dust regularly, especially in the bedrooms. Wash sheets and other bedding at least every 2-3 weeks in hot water to kill dust mites. Also, if you fear a pest infestation, arrange extermination services. Your child’s pediatrician can help you by writing a letter if you are having trouble getting help from your landlord.

If your child is still struggling with allergies despite these strategies, there are several treatments to try.

  1. Nasal rinses (also called Nasal Saline Irrigation or Neti Pots) work by rinsing the inside of the nose with salt water. This can remove dust or pollen and even loosen thick mucus. You can buy them over-the-counter or make your own here.
  2. Antihistamines (such as Zyrtec, Claritin, or Benadryl) – Available over the counter, they can help relieve itching, watery eyes, runny nose, and sneezing. However, some cause fatigue and should not be given to young children. Read medicine labels carefully and talk to your child’s doctor before trying any new medicines.
  3. Nasal corticosteroids (such as Flonase) – Since nasal sprays are used daily, they are very effective and widely used to stop persistent allergies. Safe for long-term use in children, your child’s doctor can prescribe them, although it is possible to get sprays over the counter. Always be sure to read the instructions carefully as some may not be safe for young children.
  4. injections against allergies – Your child’s doctor may suggest allergy shots, which are usually given weekly or monthly by an allergy specialist to help desensitize the immune system to allergy triggers. These can also help reduce your child’s risk of asthma later in life.

As always, contact your child’s doctor if you have any concerns or for more information about allergies or the medications used to treat them.

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