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Does Your Child Have Allergies?

Allergies can really put a damper on kids—at play and at school. In fact, a recent study shows that 61% of parents of kids with allergies said their children missed school in the past year due to allergies (American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology).

First, check with your doctor

Take your child to a pediatrician or allergist to make sure he or she actually has allergies and not something else. Colds or upper respiratory infections have symptoms that can seem very allergy-like. And always keep this in mind—if your child has a fever, it isn’t allergies.

Treatments without medication

There are several ways to prevent and treat allergy symptoms without medications. Try these:

  • Stay inside during peak times. Avoiding pollen in the first place will help prevent (or at least reduce) allergy symptoms. Keep your child indoors (with the doors and windows closed) during peak pollen times, such as mid-morning, early evening and on windy days.
  • Drink lots of water. The sneezing and runny nose that comes with allergies can leave a child a bit dehydrated. Encourage your child to drink water throughout the day—but avoid milk, as it can increase mucus production.
  • Try a hot shower or bath. This brings relief for some people. At the very least, it will knock the pollen off your child’s hair, face and body.
  • Make some warm tea. A weak tea with honey and lemon will help soothe a sore throat. (The steam may also help clear up sinus congestion.)
  • Protect their eyes. Prevent pollen from getting in their eyes with sunglasses.
  • Keep the house clean. Allergies can be tracked right into the house on our shoes, clothes, hands and hair. Get them out of the house by vacuuming often, and dust hard surfaces with a damp cloth.
  • Wash sheets often. Change bedding frequently, and wash it all in hot water.

Allergy medications

DoctorsNow physicians recommend non-sedating antihistamines like Zyrtec and Claritin, which are now available over-the-counter. Avoid over-the-counter decongestants with phenylpropanolamine or pseudoephedrine. These have been the subject of warnings by the FDA and are not recommended for children.

The most important thing to remember about antihistamines is that they should be taken regularly. They work by blocking the effect of histamine, the chemical released from certain cells in the body after being exposed to an allergen.

When antihistamines are taken regularly, they block receptors in the tissues that cause swelling and excess mucus production. If you block the actual site where histamine works, you can avoid the allergy symptoms. So don’t just wait for symptoms to strike—antihistamines won’t reverse allergy symptoms once they start.