For many parents of toddlers or young children, it may be easy to miss the signs of nasal allergies. After all, kids are exposed to lots of new germs, and lots of new germs can result in plenty of runny noses and sneezing.
While it’s true a constant runny nose or sneezing could be nothing more than another cold, allergies are also one of the most common diseases in children. Signs of nasal allergies in kids include:
- Runny and itchy nose
- Frequent sneezing
- Chronic cough
- Red, watery eyes
- Mouth breathing, especially while sleeping
- Exhaustion due to poor sleep
- Dark rings under the eyes (allergic “shiners”)
- Symptoms that last longer than two weeks
Nasal allergies can actually be more than just a nuisance. The constant congestion can lead to frequent sinus and ear infections. If a child has too many ear infections, he or she might not be able to hear well, which can lead to developmental delays. Eczema and asthma are also linked to nasal allergies. In many kids, allergies begin with patches of eczema as infants, progress to nasal problems as preschoolers and develop into asthma later.
So what causes nasal allergies in kids? Children are often allergic to the same things as adults, such as dust mites, pet dander and pollen. Some kids also have food allergies, including cow’s milk, that can sometimes cause nasal problems. Fragrances in household products like shampoos, detergents and soap can cause or worsen symptoms as well.
Children have a higher risk of developing allergies if their parents had or have allergies. Outgrowing allergies is possible; however, early food allergies are usually the ones that are outgrown. Nasal allergies have a greater likelihood of persisting.
Ways to Help Clear Up Those Pesky Allergies
The key to treating allergies in kids is pinpointing the trigger. Allergy blood tests work well in kids 3 and older, but they aren’t as effective in younger children. When trying to find out what might be making your child have symptoms, ask yourself if his or her symptoms have changed:
At different times of the year? When your child has been out of daycare for a few days? When you’re away from home or your pets? After home renovations, or a leak or flood?
Taking notes regarding changes in your child’s symptoms can also be helpful for his or her health care provider. With food allergies, an elimination diet can be another way to identify possible causes. Once you determine the cause, controlling your child’s environment can be very beneficial. Here are some tips:
- Get rid of stuffed animals, or wash them regularly in hot water. Stuffed animals can be a haven for dust mites and other allergens.
- Cover your child’s mattress with a dust mite-proof cover. Wash bedding every week in hot water with an extra rinse cycle.
- Remove carpets and heavy drapes that trap dust and allergens.
- Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.
- Use air conditioners to filter allergens from the outside. Clean or replace filters often.
- Reduce your use of chemical cleaners with strong scents.
- Don’t allow smoking in the house.
- Keep pets out of your child’s bedroom or playroom.
- Consider an allergy medication. Go over the pros and cons with your child’s provider, as there are some safe and effective medications available. Never start using an over-the-counter drug without a pediatrician’s recommendation.
Remember, your goal doesn’t need to be an allergen-free home. Little ones with nasal allergies can handle some exposure to an allergen without symptoms. Making a few smart changes and decreasing your child’s overall exposure may be sufficient to eliminate his or her symptoms.