- Allergens can be present year-round.
- Although the bulk of seasonal allergies are made up of pollens from grasses,
weeds, and trees, other non-seasonal risk factors such as foods, insects
and pets can also produce allergies.
- Through proper investigation, most allergies in children can be identified
Seasonal allergies present a host of challenges for both adults and children,
and contrary to what you may think, they are not limited to just the wheezing
and sneezing associated with springtime.
Genesa R. Wagoner, MD, a board-certified pediatrician at Providence Medical Institute in San
Pedro, CA, emphasizes that parents should not wait until spring to address
potential allergy-like symptoms that their children may exhibit. “The
majority of seasonal allergies do occur in the spring,” Dr. Wagoner
says, “due to grasses, trees, flowers and other plants blooming;
however, what may appear to be seasonal allergies can in fact occur anytime
of the year.” For example, outdoor molds are more widespread in
late summer and early autumn but can persist throughout the year. Household
dust gathers regardless of the season. This year-round challenge may help
explain why in the United States,
allergies affect almost 30 percent of adults and 40 percent of children and
could be getting worse every year.
Dr. Wagoner notes that many types of allergens — seasonal, non-seasonal,
dietary and environmental — are commonly present around children.
These can include:
Foods (which are non-seasonal and constitute their own category of allergens)
such as milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, and wheat;
- Insects that sting or bite, such as wasps, fire ants, bees, mosquitos,
and household pests such as dust mites;
- Indoor and outdoor mold spores that might be present in the home or at
school or daycare centers;
Pet allergens (in the U.S.,
as many as three in 10 people can develop an allergic reaction to cats or dogs);
- And of course pollen, which we associate with hay fever, that is spawned
primarily from weeds, trees and grasses.
There is a
genetic component to allergies as well. In other words, allergies have a tendency to run
in the family, so if a parent has an allergy there is a greater chance
that his or her child may have that same allergy. And if both parents
have the same allergy, the risk to the child is increased.
One question that parents frequently have is whether they should have their
children tested for allergies as a matter of course.
Dr. Wagoner says, “Routine allergy testing for children is not necessary.
Most mild allergies can be treated without testing at all.” A visit
to the pediatrician can help determine what your child may be allergic
to, and how to treat it, without formal allergy testing.
If you and your pediatrician or family doctor decide that your child’s
symptoms — which commonly include sneezing, coughing, running nose
— could be from allergies, one of the first steps is to determine
when these symptoms act up or are triggered. This can seem a bit like
detective work, in that you are trying to recall and isolate when and
where your child’s allergy symptoms are most present. For example,
is it a couple of days a week? It is only at home? Is it more when outside?
Once you and your child’s doctor have addressed these potential
clues, the best course of treatment can be determined.
“After gathering information, you can usually get a pretty good idea
of what the allergy is and begin determining next steps, such as which
foods, substances and environments to avoid and whether medication could
help,” says Dr. Wagoner. Formal allergy testing is reserved for
patients that don’t get better with standard allergen avoidance
and allergy treatments and/or for situations in which knowing the answer
could help determine if a family needs to make a major change in the child’s
environment (like if the child has an allergy to the family pet). Allergy
testing is not necessary for most patients with mild allergies.
A variety of practical, everyday precautions around the house can be taken
to help minimize reactions caused by allergies. Dr. Wagoner says, “Make
sure household pets are bathed and groomed regularly. Replace the home
AC/heating filter and HEPA vacuum filters regularly; use hypoallergenic
bedding and pillowcases and launder them and other linens frequently;
keep windows shut if your child is sensitive to airborne allergens; and
be mindful of toys and kids’ items around the house that collect
a lot of dust, like stuffed animals. If you take basic steps to limit
exposure and work with your doctor to develop a game plan, allergies can
be kept in the background without disrupting your child’s normal
Learn how to
get a good night’s sleep with seasonal allergies. Download the
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raising healthy kids.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.