Did you know that U.S. children miss more than 2 million school days a year because of seasonal allergies? These sniffles may not be contagious, but their accompanying symptoms can certainly leave kids down for the count. If you have a sneezer, we’re sure you know first-hand how hard it is to get relief. Our three-step plan is guaranteed to help manage the misery and get your child back to school. Get ready to kiss allergy season goodbye.
Decipher the symptoms. Is it a virus? Or allergies? Their achoos are head-scratchingly similar. Use our guide below to sniff out the difference between the two.
Runny nose | Sneezing | Thick, cloudy mucus | Sore throat | Body aches
Duration: Symptoms grow worse over 4 to 5 days and abate after about a week.
Itchy, red eyes | Runny nose | Sneezing | Thin, clear mucus | Wheezing
Duration: Symptoms tend to be acute and may come on either daily or intermittently for weeks during peak seasons. They may appear to go away onlty to return with re-exposure.
Get zzz-free relief.
These remedies won’t knock your kid out.
Grab Newer Meds
Older antihistamines, like diphenhydramine, make kids sleepy. Try newer children’s antihistamines, which don’t sedate, says James Sublett, M.D., chair of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Indoor Environments Committee. (Look for these active ingredients: loratadine, desloratadine, and fexofenadine.) These meds are safe for most kids, but chat with your pediatrician before doling out.
Wash Allergens Away
Clear irritants out of your child’s nose and decrease inflammation with a daily saline rinse. Dissolve 1 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of baking soda in a pint of lukewarm water. Put the solution in a bulb syringe or neti pot and irrigate away.
If pollen’s the trouble, check the count online and close the windows when it’s high. Change your tot’s clothing after outdoor play and bathe before bed. For dander allergies, keep pets out of the bedroom. Dust? Eighty-six carpets and heavy drapes.
Immunotherapy, or allergy shots, offers a solution for some pint-sized patients, says Richard Weber, M.D., president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.
When To Consider Shots
If your child battles allergies year-round or has symptoms that aren’t controlled with meds or avoidance, she may be a candidate. Make sure her allergist has pinpointed her exact triggers via a skin or blood test. Shots are most effective for pollen, dust, mold, and pet dander allergies.
How They Work
Injections contain a purified form of the allergen; the exposure can increase your child’s natural tolerance to the substance. Doctors start with the lowest dose and increase it weekly until the most effective dose is found (which generally takes about 5 months). Then that maintenance dose is injected every few weeks for up to five years. It’s a commitment!
What to Expect
Usually immunotherapy can keep kids sneeze-free for years, even after the shots are discontinued. The shots are considered safe and effective, but should only be administered by a board-certified allergist.
Holly Pevzner is a health and parenting writer living in Brooklyn, NY.