How To Know If Your Child Has Seasonal Allergies

A Mild Minnesota Winter Has Spring Allergies Sprouting Early!

Buds started forming on the trees in Minnesota more than a month earlier than usual. That means irritants like pollen and mold have a head start on wreaking havoc through sniffles, coughing, watery eyes, and more. Complicating all of this is that it is also cold season, with symptoms that mimic allergies.

So, how do you know the difference, especially for young children who may be unable to communicate their feelings? Some adults aren’t even sure their symptoms are due to allergies, so solving the pollen puzzle for kids can be challenging. But it’s important because when allergies aren’t controlled, they can cause additional, serious issues like wheezing, asthma flare-ups, and difficulty concentrating in school.

Here is a roadmap to help.

First, how do you differentiate between a cold and allergies? It can be hard to tell! Oftentimes, cold symptoms are more abrupt in onset, may include fever, and improve within one week. A sore throat and cough may also be more pronounced with a cold.

Symptoms of Allergies in Children

When a child is dealing with allergies, they can feel miserable and lack the energy to fully participate in school or sports. Specific symptoms include:

  • Sore throat
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Itchy nose or eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Clear nasal drainage
  • Congestion
  • Breathing through their mouth

Certainly, these symptoms could also indicate a cold, but there is one telltale sign of allergies: a child rubbing their face a lot. That means rubbing their nose often or rubbing their eyes and lots of sniffles.

Once you suspect allergies, there are things you can do to help.

Limit Exposure

Some allergens peak in the morning, so evenings are best if you plan to spend time outside. If your child spends the day playing outside, ensure they shower (including washing their hair) before bed. Washing sheets more often in the spring is also a good idea. It can be incredibly tempting to open windows in the spring in Minnesota, especially as we creep into the high 60 and 70 degree days. But if your child suffers from allergies, keep those windows closed. You can even use a HEPA filter to reduce irritants in the child’s room.

There are plenty of over-the-counter treatments for allergies, and selecting the right option for your child can seem daunting. Talking to a doctor about the differences between these medications and how to give the proper dose is important. For example: Pay attention to how a particular medicine makes your child feel. If their allergy treatment makes them drowsy at school, that’s not a good fit. Children with mild allergy symptoms may only need medications as needed. Other children with more significant symptoms may need daily allergy medications throughout the allergy season. A small number of children may need to see an allergy specialist to get symptoms under control. This is especially true if your child has asthma or other related conditions.

These medications block histamine receptors and cells, reducing the body’s physical response to allergens. Antihistamines generally work well for children and don’t typically cause drowsiness, but read the label. Some long-acting formulas come in liquids and chewables for children too young to swallow pills.

Nasal Sprays
While antihistamines work well for sneezing and itching, they may not tackle stuffiness and drainage. That’s where a steroid nasal spray can help. These sprays reduce nasal passage swelling and irritation (post-nasal drip) that causes congestion and even a sore throat.

Do you still have questions? A doctor can help you map out the best plan of attack for spring allergies so your kids can ride their bikes, play in the yard, and be kids this season.

Dr. Kristi Trussell is an ER physician and Assistant Medical Director of The Urgency Room

Related Article: Norovirus Moving Through Minnesota- What Parents Should Know

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