Spring is around the corner and we are all looking forward to longer days and warmer weather. However, this time of year can also bring seasonal allergies for many families and children.
Seasonal allergies, or allergic rhinitis, occur when the immune system reacts to harmless substances including mold, dust mites, pet dander and pollen. In response, the body releases histamine, which can cause nasal drainage, sneezing, coughing, throat irritation, and itchy watery eyes.
Allergy symptoms that last throughout the year are often caused by indoor allergens such as pet dander or dust mites. Seasonal allergies are usually related to pollen from weeds, grass and trees. Parents may also notice that their child’s allergy symptoms are worse at certain times of day. A child that is allergic to dust may have symptoms when they first wake up in the morning while a child that has a grass allergy may experience symptoms after they have been playing outside.
Because the symptoms of allergic rhinitis are similar to the common cold, it can sometimes be difficult to determine what is causing a child’s symptoms.
Questions to Consider:
- How long has your child had symptoms? The common cold typically resolve within 2 weeks, so if your child has symptoms that last longer than this it may be time to look at allergies as a possible cause.
- Does your child have a fever? Allergies do not cause a fever, so if your child’s symptoms are accompanied by an elevated temperature it is safe to assume that they have a virus.
- Does your child have eye symptoms? Allergy symptoms usually include itchy, watery and irritated eyes while the common cold does not. Dark circles under the eyes are also a common sign of allergies in children.
- Do any of your child’s playmates or siblings have similar symptoms? If you have noticed that other children that your child has been in close contact with have similar symptoms, a virus is the most likely cause.
- Is there a family history of allergies? Allergies are more common in families with a history of allergies.
To diagnose allergies, your child’s provider may order allergy testing through a blood or skin test. Many medications and lifestyle modifications can help control allergy symptoms. See your child’s healthcare provider if you suspect allergies or have any questions or concerns about your child’s symptoms or condition.