When you see your child sneezing with a runny nose, your first thought is probably that he has a cold. Grab some tissues and become a detective, though, because the cause might actually be allergies. Learn to recognize the difference and how to keep your child healthy throughout the year.
Spot the Difference
Allergies can be seasonal, depending on the time of year, or chronic if your child is continuously exposed to allergens ranging from food to pet dander to pollen. Allergy symptoms include sneezing, watery or itchy eyes, a runny nose, coughing, and sometimes even a sore throat. These are also clinical signs of the common cold, so it’s important to distinguish between the two.
Mucus from allergies is typically clear and runny, as opposed to thick yellow or green. Colds last for about 10 days, so if the symptoms continue or your child seems to have a perpetual cold, it’s an indication of allergies.
Master the Time of Year
One of the best things you can do is to familiarize yourself with the time of year your child struggles. Depending on where you live, spring, fall, and winter are peak allergy seasons. Start checking the allergy forecast before you leave the house. Pollen.com provides a detailed allergy forecast with an additional cold/flu and asthma forecast. Stay indoors if the allergy forecast shows high levels. Check with your child’s pediatrician to see if he or she can prescribe preventive medication to impede allergy symptoms before they occur.
Improve Air Quality
Many people don’t put much thought into air quality inside the house, but it’s just as important as outdoor air quality. Air pollution indoors can be caused by a variety of irritants, including dust mites, mold, synthetic fragrances, cleaning products, etc. These particles stay in the air and can worsen allergies. Remember to change your air filters about once a month.
Consider installing a whole-home ventilator to keep your kids comfortable while home. These ventilators catch the air and push out the pollutants for improved air quality.
Clean it Up
Be on the defensive, and implement house rules for family members and guests to follow. Place a doormat on either side of the door, so allergens have less chance of being tracked in. Keep shoes at the door, and have family change clothing once home. Dust mites live in fabrics, so make sure to vacuum and dust all living spaces, including curtains and mattresses, frequently. Wash bedding and sheets weekly or more often if needed. Bathe children every night to remove airborne particles. The bottom line? Keep the house — and especially your child’s bedroom — neat and tidy.
Have Essentials on Hand
Splurge on softer tissues to prevent the nose from chapping, and have Vaseline on hand to soothe cracked areas. Keep cool compresses handy for when eyes become puffy and irritated. Encourage your kids to drink lots of water, as allergy symptoms can cause dehydration.
It seems like an overwhelming amount of work to do on the front end, but these tips ultimately make for a more enjoyable quality of life.