Allergies Are Common in Younger Kids

Filed under: Medical Conditions

Limit your dog's access to your child's room if allergies are suspected. Credit: OakleyOriginals, Flickr

We tend to react to our child's every sniffle, but how often is it something we need to worry about? And how can we even tell if it's an allergy or cold?

That's not an easy distinction to make, however there are variables to watch for -- mainly the duration and onset of symptoms, as well as the time of year they occur.

Another tip-off is that allergies, in general, do not present themselves with fever.

"The most common allergies for kids are dust mites, pollen, mold, pet dander and saliva and fecal matter from cockroaches, mice and rats," says Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a Seattle-based pediatrician and mom to two young boys.

Luckily, these don't tend to cause life-threatening responses and dealing with them is relatively straightforward.

"Simply eliminate the offending agent in the child's life," says Swanson, who writes the SeattleMamaDoc blog.

For example, if you discover your child is allergic to pet dander, you don't necessarily have to get rid of the dog, but you do want to limit the dog's access to the child's room and belongings.

Dust mite allergies are quite common in younger kids, Swanson tells ParentDish in a phone interview. And since they like to hide out in carpeting, stuffed animals and essentially any accessible textile, it's almost a Sisyphean task to keep them at bay.

If you think your child has an allergy to these ubiquitous critters, you will need to decrease the amount of dust in your child's surroundings. Vacuum frequently, wash clothes and linens weekly in very hot water and put an allergy-free cover on your child's mattress. Unfortunately, your child's teddy bear might be the worst offender, so put him in the wash regularly, too.

Seasonal allergies such as hay fever are quite common, occurring in approximately 10 percent of all children. If you suspect your child may have an allergy, be on the lookout for the "allergic aalute," that oft-seen gesture of rubbing one's nose with an index finger or palm of the hand. Other symptoms include itchy and watery eyes or a twitching up of the nose.

It's difficult to isolate the agent that's causing an allergic reaction, says Swanson, who urges parents to pay close attention to what, when and where the child is when the symptoms occur. As parents often are the most insightful in figuring out their child's allergy, Swanson urges them to engage in a rather extensive period of trial and error to get to the root of the problem, eliminating one possible contagion at a time.

Allergies tend to run in families, so definitely inform your child's doctor if either parent has an allergy. This doesn't mean your child is destined to inherit your hay fever, but his or her odds are definitely increased.

"The last resort would be allergy testing with a specialist," Swanson says, "which consists of either skin testing or drawing blood."

Related: Allergy Quiz

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.