Children & Allergies

Is your child sick or allergic?

It can be tough to tell the difference, so be sure to consult a health care professional. Identifying and treating allergies can be important for children. Because they are still growing, children experience effects of allergies – and treatments – that just don’t apply to adults.

For example, allergies can lead to inflammation in the ear, which could promote ear infections. Babies with chronic ear infections can’t hear as well and may develop speech problems as a result. (i)

Allergy symptoms develop when the immune system creates a too-strong response to a substance. You may suspect your child has allergies if you see these symptoms: Runny nose, Sneezing, and Coughing

  • The same triggers for indoor and outdoor allergies for adults can spark symptoms for children as well.

    Think dust mites, pollen, mold, pets, cockroaches; also, insect stings, medicine, and chemicals such as detergents and perfumes.

    If one or both of the child’s parents has allergies, the child is more likely to develop symptoms as well. (ii)


    Sometimes it’s difficult to tell what and when allergens will cause reactions. Experts suggest keeping a diary of the child’s symptoms and exposure to help figure it out.

    You may need to look beyond your own home, to school situations or the homes of relatives and friends, to find the cause. (iii)

  • A child's allergy symptoms may look like a cold, with the telltale signs of runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, and itchy nose.

    However, you may notice that the child clears his or her throat frequently or rubs his or her nose, or that symptoms last longer than a week. That's when it's time to think about seasonal pollen allergies.

    Allergies can start at any time during life, including childhood.  Pollen is just one allergen that can trigger symptoms in children. Pay attention to the timing of your child's symptoms. If they coincide with high pollen counts in spring or fall, you may be dealing with allergies.

    Children face allergy complications that may not affect adults. For example, asthma, which affects the lungs, is closely related to allergies, in which the immune system overreacts. (iv) Also, ear inflammation could encourage fluid build up in the ear, making it hard for the child to hear well and develop speech. (v)

    Pollen allergies often begin between the ages of 2 and 5 years. Children under the age of 2 years generally have not had enough pollen exposure to trigger allergy symptoms. About 15 percent of children, generally school-age, teens, and young adults, develop hay fever. Wash away pollen with a bath and shampoo, especially important prior to bedtime. Keep windows closed in the home and the car, and use air conditioning. Don't use window fans or attic fans, which can suck pollen into the house. Dry and windy weather boosts the spread of pollen, so have the child stay inside during that weather. (vi)

  • They don’t mean to do it, but our pets can fetch us nasal congestion, runny nose, and eyes that itch or water.

    If you live with a furry, walking allergen or two, you may be familiar with the allergy symptoms that come with them. Although it may seem like fur or feathers set off symptoms, it’s actually their dander, urine, and saliva that revs up our immune systems. (vii)

    As many as 30 percent of Americans with allergies report symptoms that are due to pet exposure. (viii)

    Lurking on clothing, furniture, carpets or the animal itself, allergens can come from a variety of animals such as mice, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, horses, and birds, in addition to cats and dogs. (viiii)

    Pet allergies can be prevented by simply not having a pet in the house; if you don’t know whether you’re sensitive to pets, have allergy tests at the doctor’s office before acquiring a pet. You could opt for pets without fur or feathers, such as fish. (x)

    Other measures may reduce your exposure to pet allergens: (xi)

    • No pets in bedrooms

    • Keep floors bare and clean – no carpets or rugs

    • Change clothes following animal exposure

    • Use allergy friendly filters on your room air cleaners as well as heating and air

    conditioning units and vents

    • Mask up while dusting and vacuuming

  • Can you be allergic to something you can’t even see? Of course!

    Dust mites are such small, microscopic creatures that we can’t see them with the naked eye. They live in our homes, feasting on skin flakes we shed every day.

    Lots of us are allergic to dust mites.

    Adult humans shed as much as 1.5 grams of skin in a single day. This is a smorgasbord that can feed as many as 1 million dust mites. The mites also produce waste products. (xii)

    The eight-legged mites and their feces are allergens for many people with indoor allergies. This dust mite detritus gets tossed into the air when you walk on carpets and rugs or flop down on your mattress and pillow for a good night’s sleep.

    You might love those soft, cozy spots in your home, but so do dust mites. They thrive in temperatures between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity of 70 to 80 percent.

    If your immune system is sensitive to the presence of dust mites, they’ll trigger allergy symptoms when you are indoors, no matter if the weather outdoors is warm or cold.

    These symptoms include: sneezing; runny nose; itchy and watery eyes; stuffy nose; itchy nose, mouth or throat; itchy skin; post-nasal drip; and cough.

    To make your environment less welcoming to dust mites, keep indoor humidity levels in the 30 percent to 50 percent range. (xiii)

    Use wood, leather, or vinyl furniture, instead of furniture upholstered in fabric.


    Don’t use carpeting on floors. Wash bedding weekly, including pillows, once a week in water  with a temperature of 130 degrees to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. (xiiii)

  • Mold is a perfect example of a two-faced allergy: It could be both an indoor allergy and an outdoor allergy.

    Outside, you might encounter mold in a pile of fallen leaves or on rotting wood.

    Indoors, mold is most likely to occur in damp areas such as a kitchen, laundry area, basement, or bathroom. Also consider mold prone items that are kept indoors, such as books, stuffed animal toys, wallpaper. But any damp, dark location can harbor the yuk.

    As a fungus, mold reproduces by releasing spores in the air. Breathing in or touching these spores, which are invisible to the human eye, can trigger allergic reactions or even asthma. (iv)

    Mold allergy symptoms can mimic other allergies, with sneezing, itching, runny nose and congestion among the most common symptoms.

    Avoiding mold is the best way to stave off  these allergies. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation provide these suggestions (v) for minimizing indoor mold:

    • Use central air conditioning with a special anti-allergy filter.

    • Reduce humidity. Below 45% is good, below 35% is better.

    • Use exhaust fans.

    • Fix leaks.

    • Make sure rain water drains away from your house.