When cold symptoms last more than a week or two, or develop about the same time every year, it may be due to an allergy, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, (AAP). Typical cold symptoms accompanied by an itchy throat, eyes, ears, mouth or skin are usually signs of an allergy. Other allergy symptoms may include coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing, as well as rashes, hives and an upset stomach.
I know that allergies are no fun. Runny nose, itchy eyes, feeling like a marshmallow has invaded my head – these are a few of the annoying things that plague me at this time every year. In my case, I know I am allergic to pollen, grass and trees. Going outside can be a challenge (especially if I insist on breathing). Carrying a tissue pack everywhere I go is an absolute MUST for me. I have learned to live with my allergies and can tell the difference between when my symptoms are due to an allergy or a cold.
When your child has any of these symptoms, how do you know if it is a cold or an allergy?
To know for sure if it is an allergy or not, let your child’s pediatrician determine the cause of the symptoms. He may be able to tell in just one visit, or he may recommend that you take your child to a pediatric allergist (a doctor with advanced training in allergy and asthma). To make the most of your visit, try keeping a diary of your child’s symptoms, along with factors such as where you were (eg. a home with a cat or outside on the grass). Also, keep track of issues such as lack of concentration or attention. The more information you can give your child’s health care provider, the easier it will be to determine if your child’s symptoms are due to an allergy or not.
If it is an allergy, the doctor may recommend medications that can make your child more comfortable. Usually, some lifestyle changes can help, too.
What can help keep allergies at bay?
The AAP suggests:
• if your child is allergic to pollen, keep him indoors in the early morning when pollen levels are at their highest
• bathe your pet frequently to keep him from spreading pollen around your home
• keep windows closed, especially at night, and run your air conditioner to help remove allergens
• do not let your pet sleep in your child’s bedroom.
In addition, the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology has a section on their website that guides you through allergy symptoms, types, and treatments. It includes info on managing allergies at home, school, and the importance of knowing triggers.
What happens if allergies are severe?
In some cases, a child may have an allergy severe enough to warrant carrying an EpiPen, a pen-like inject-able needle that provides epinephrine (a hormone) to halt an allergic reaction. In other cases, allergy shots (immunotherapy) may be suggested, to gradually desensitize your child to the allergen, and lessen symptoms. Your child’s health care provider will be able to evaluate him and make specific recommendations.
Allergies can affect your child’s life in a negative way, so early and continued monitoring of his symptoms by you and his health care provider will help to give him the best outcome possible.
See other topics on how to help your child, here.