From the February 2016 issue

Does Your Child Have a Cold or Allergies?

If your kid just can't shake that cold, it may be indoor allergies.

Think frost’s the terminator to your kid’s allergens? Not necessarily, says Dr. Pamella Abghari, allergy specialist with Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit. Allergic rhinitis, as it’s formally known, affects 40 percent of U.S. kids, says the College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology – and many experience this nasal nuisance all year. We spoke with Abghari about perennial, or year-round, allergies to discover the culprits and what parents can do about the symptoms.

Know the triggers

“Typically, winter allergies pertain to indoor triggers,” Abghari says, “like pets, dust mites, cockroaches and feathers.” No wonder kids’ symptoms can spike once shut in!

Early candidates

“Allergies are typically diagnosed in 2- to 7-year-olds, because it takes at least two seasons of exposure for children to develop the (allergic reactions) pertaining to” pesky pollens. But beware: Kids can develop symptoms earlier if sensitive to triggers, she adds. If your infant can’t shake the sniffles, she may have perennial allergic rhinitis.

‘Not a cold’

Abghari hears it on the regular: “‘My kid always has a cold.'” She admits the symptoms are similar, “But allergies don’t cause fevers, muscle aches, vomiting or diarrhea, which are common with viral syndrome” – and colds normally only stick around a week max, Mayo Clinic notes. Look out for the persistently irritated eyes, sneezing, postnasal drainage, chronic cough, congestion or itchy throat.

Look and listen

Wintertime irritants can worsen symptoms, Abghari says, like “smelly candles,” smoke from a fireplace or mold spores from a real pine tree around the holidays. “Children will tell you as they get older, ‘When I get around the smoke from the fireplace, my symptoms get worse.’ Parents have to be very careful.”

Avoidance measures

“Always our No. 1 recommendation is to get rid of the trigger. But if that’s not possible” – like in the case of furry friends – “you have to make ways in order to limit exposure.” Pets shouldn’t be allowed in kids’ rooms if kids exhibit symptoms to dander, Abghari advises.

Other tips? Opt for an electric fireplace or artificial tree. Nix dust mites with air filters. Or further alleviate symptoms with antihistamines like Benadryl or Claritin, making sure to consult your physician about dosage. Clear up a runny nose with a nasal aspirator, and take a hot bath to relieve congestion.

Visit your pediatrician

If your child still can’t find relief, Abghari advises parents visit their pediatrician. “Ask about an allergy evaluation by any local allergist,” she says. “It just takes 15 minutes after you apply the allergen to the child’s skin.”

Art by Mary Kinsora

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