Does my child have a cold or allergies?
Because allergies can develop seemingly overnight and allergy symptoms can come on suddenly, many parents worry that their child’s allergies may be a sign of something more serious. The symptoms of allergies can mimic those of more serious conditions like influenza and the common cold, but there are a few ways to distinguish between allergies and other illnesses. Your child may be experiencing symptoms of seasonal allergies if he or she:
Develops a “cold” or cold symptoms at the same time each year
Develops symptoms after being outdoors or after exposure to pollen
Develops symptoms after exposure to pets or pet dander
Experiences sneezing, congestion, and runny nose without other symptoms
Has a clear runny nose (no mucus present)
What are the symptoms of allergies?
The symptoms of allergies are similar to symptoms of many other illnesses, but in general, children suffering from allergies will experience:
Can allergies make you feel like you have the flu?
Individuals and children with severe allergies may experience flu-like symptoms that do not go away over an extended period of time. Like the symptoms of influenza, allergy symptoms can appear suddenly and may include drowsiness, fatigue, headache, and more. If you are concerned your child may have influenza, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician as soon as possible.
What causes allergies?
The symptoms of allergies are actually the body’s way of defending against foreign invaders. The problem is that sometimes the body is unable to distinguish between real threats like influenza and those that are not a threat, like pollen, grass, or pet dander. In individuals and children with allergies, the immune system releases histamine,
Children, the elderly, and other individuals with weaker immune systems are more likely to experience allergies and allergic reactions. However, as the immune system develops, the body is able to respond more efficiently to triggers, including common allergy irritants and illnesses. Some children may even outgrow their allergies, while others may develop allergies well into adulthood.
What type of allergy does my child have?
Children and adults can develop allergic reactions both mild and severe to a variety of things, including food, animals, materials, and more. Some of the most common types of allergies include:
If your child is experiencing a rash or digestive issues following the consumption of certain foods, he or she may have a food allergy. Some of the most common types of food allergies include:
Common signs and symptoms of food allergies and sensitivities include:
**If your child is having trouble breathing or swallowing, if he or she is light-headed or confused, or is experiencing the symptoms of anaphylactic shock, including swollen lips, tongue, and throat, seek emergency medical services immediately.
Pollen is one of the most common allergic triggers, and if your child’s allergy symptoms correspond with high rates of pollen in your area, then pollen may indeed be to blame. Pollen allergies, commonly referred to as seasonal allergies, are caused by an allergic reaction to dust produced by trees, plants, flowers, and weeds. Pollen is also transferred by bees, birds, and other animals. Some children and adults may only experience allergic reactions during peak blooming seasons, while others may suffer from a sensitivity to pollen year-round.
If your child experiences chronic cold and allergy symptoms and your home includes cats, dogs, or other animals, it’s possible he or she may have an allergy to pet dander. If you are concerned your child may have an allergy to animals, consider removing the pets from the home for a few days in order to determine whether or not your child’s symptoms clear up. Some children can also develop severe allergies to the saliva and urine of:
Bee allergies can be life-threatening and severe enough to require immediate medical attention should your child be stung. Children and adults with bee allergies should have an epinephrine auto-injector (also know as an EpiPen) in case of an emergency.
WHAT IS AN EPIPEN AND HOW DOES IT WORK?
EpiPens contain epinephrine, a hormone also produced by the adrenal glands, that quickly treats the symptoms of severe allergic reactions, including hives, and swelling of the face, lips, and throat which can cause trouble breathing and swallowing. Epinephrine, or adrenaline, also counteracts the symptoms of anaphylaxis by narrowing the blood vessels which can cause low blood pressure and lightheadedness.
If you or your child experience cold symptoms after coming into contact with dust, you may have an allergy to dust mites. Like pollen, dust mites can trigger serious allergic reactions in some children and adults. Many people discover allergies to dust mites following a thorough cleaning or after vacuuming or dusting, which can allow dust mites to come into contact with the skin.
Adults and children exhibiting chronic allergies or cold symptoms may actually be experiencing symptoms of an allergic reaction to mold. From blue cheese and other types of foods with mold spores to black mold that can lurk in air vents and in other areas of the home undetected, mold can cause trouble breathing, a runny nose, watery eyes, and other symptoms of allergies. If you or your child are experiencing chronic allergy symptoms and cannot determine a cause, a physician or pediatrician can conduct an allergy test to determine if mold is to blame. At-home mold tests can also be purchased at home improvement stores to detect the presence of mold in a home or office.
If your child exhibits symptoms of an allergic reaction to mold, there’s also a very good chance he or she is allergic to penicillin, a common antibiotic used to treat a variety of bacterial infections. Individuals with penicillin allergies must also avoid many types of antibiotics that are created from mold spores, so it’s important to mention any sensitivities or allergic reactions to your pediatrician in the event that antibiotics are necessary for treating illnesses and infections.
If you’ve ever received surgery, you’ve likely been asked if you have a latex allergy. Since latex gloves and other materials are often used by medical professionals, you’ll want to notify doctors and nurses of any previous allergic reactions no matter how mild. Children with latex allergies should also not come into contact with balloons, rubber bands, certain adhesive bandages, pacifiers and baby bottle nipples, and elastic or spandex with latex material.
Nickel allergies have become more and more common over the course of the last few decades. This is far more likely due to the number of objects that are created using nickel than an increase in the number of individuals developing nickel allergies. Because nickel is used in the formation of everything from jewelry and metal clothing buttons and snaps to cell phones and computers, those with nickel allergies are likely to experience some form of allergic reaction that allows them to identify a mild sensitivity or serious allergic reaction to the material.
How do doctors test for allergies?
If your child is exhibiting symptoms of an allergic reaction, but you are unsure of what is causing the reaction, your pediatrician can perform an allergy test which will indicate which foods, materials, and environmental stimuli to avoid. Common allergies not typically diagnosed before an allergy test include pet dander, dust mites, and mold, but allergy tests may include multiple irritants, including:
How do you treat and prevent allergies?
While allergies cannot be prevented since each individual’s immune system responds differently to different stimuli, there are ways to treat allergies with prescription and over-the-counter medications and other at-home remedies that can alleviate symptoms.
At-Home Remedies for Allergies
While it’s always a good idea to avoid foods, animals, materials, and any other allergic stimulant, there are ways to treat allergy symptoms at home.
Dehumidifiers for Allergies
If you suffer from seasonal allergies, an allergy to mold, or asthma, a dehumidifier can help control the moisture levels in your home, which in turns prevents mold growth and dust mites.
Healthy Diet for Allergy Prevention
As if you needed another reason to eat a healthy diet of balanced proteins and healthy fats with plenty of fruits and vegetables, here’s another: eating healthy can treat and even prevent allergies. Studies have shown that children who consume more whole fruits and vegetables before the age of ten are less likely to develop allergies as children and adults.
Staying Hydrated for Allergy Prevention
Consuming plenty of clear fluids can also prevent allergic reactions and allergy flare-ups, since dry nasal passages can exacerbate mucus and congestion. Drinking warm clear fluids such as green tea, broth, or soup can also help provide some relief from congestion through steam.
Nasal Rinses for Seasonal Allergies
If you suffer from seasonal allergies, or allergies to pollen, grass, pet dander, or other environmental irritants, a nasal rinse can clean your sinus passages of any dust or dander that can cause allergy flare-ups. Just remember to use distilled or sterilized water when performing a nasal rinse, as doing so with untreated tap water can cause bacterial infections and other life-threatening problems that can lead to serious illnesses which can spread to the brain.
Allergy Test for Children
If you’re concerned about your child’s allergy symptoms, or if you’re unsure what your child is suffering an allergy to, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician who can perform an allergy test and determine how to create a personalized treatment plan, which may include avoiding exposure to certain stimuli or medications used to treat the symptoms of seasonal allergies. Schedule an appointment with your child’s pediatrician to discuss the best treatment options.
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In the Mid South, we know that April showers certainly bring May flowers, but they also bring springtime allergies. As we gear up for allergy season in the Mid South, we know to keep our tissues handy and our allergy medicines fully stocked. But how can we prepare our kids for this especially sneezy season? If your child tends to sneeze, cough, or have ENT (ear, nose, and throat) issues as spring rolls around, seasonal allergies are likely the culprit. Seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever or a pollen allergy, can begin as early as February and peak in April through June.
Since kids spend more time outside, playing alongside flowers, grass, and other dander in the air, they are more prone to seasonal allergies than adults. As pollen counts begin to rise over the next few weeks, kids may begin to exhibit symptoms that range from red eyes to severe headaches and pains. At Pediatrics East, we often see patients this time of year who are feeling the seasonal allergy blues. To keep your kids feeling their best, we have 5 tips for springing into allergy season.
1. Sickness Vs. Allergies: Know The Difference
Many times, we have patients come in who feel like they have developed a post-winter cold or flu. Instead, their parents are surprised to find, these are just allergies! Before you come in for a visit with your pediatrician, you can tell the difference between allergies and a true sickness or infection in the following ways:
- If mucus is thin and colorless, these are allergies; a viral infection will produce thick, colored mucus
- If your child has a fever, this is not allergy related
- If you child has aches and pains, this is not allergy related
If your child is experiencing a sore throat, has a rash, has watery or red eyes, is frequently sneezing or itching, allergies are typically to blame.
2. Spring Cleaning
Often, allergies are most severe when outdoors; however, allergens find their way inside, too. Now is a great time of year to make a list and tackle indoor projects in your home that can reduce the effects of allergens on your kids. Here are a few ways to get started:
- Change air filters
- Clean carpets
- Wash baseboards that have collected dirt, dust, and other debris
- Clean window treatments, dusting blinds or vacuuming drapes
- Dust areas that you may miss in regular cleanings, such as ceiling fans
- Clean windows and window screens, especially if you are opening windows to let the spring breeze inside
If your child is sensitive to dust year-round, these are good tips for regular cleaning to keep everyone feeling their best!
3. Turning To Medicine
Depending on your child’s age and level of allergy sensitivity, there are some medications that can help during this time. As always, consult with your pediatrician first before starting any new medications; but these are a few options that can potentially help with allergy problems:
- Decongestants: To help with stuffy noses and sinus pressure
- Antihistamines: To help with runny noses, itchiness, and sneezing; often, these can have a drowsy effect, which should be used with caution
- Nasal spray: To help with nasal issues specifically as a localized form of treatment
Again, depending upon the level of reactions your child experiences, it is important to discuss any medications with your pediatrician. Your doctor may even recommend more in-depth treatment, such as an inhaler, allergy shots, or other method for treating allergies throughout the year.
4. Get Outside – With Caution
After a few months of cold and rain, the sunny, longer days of spring are a warm welcome. Yet, as we all know, there can be too much of a good thing. Even though your kids may want to spend most of their time outside, be mindful of their limits. Be aware of high pollen days, the amount of time they spend outside, and how their bodies react to certain allergens. If your child seems to have prolonged allergy suffering, even with minimal outdoor time, talk to your pediatrician. Testing for other allergies may help identify another allergy problem altogether.
5. Enjoy the Season!
Most importantly, your family should enjoy springtime in Memphis – it is one of our favorite times of the year! With plenty of family-friendly festivals around town, there is so much to do and explore with one another.
Don’t let allergies stand in the way of your family fun. Talk to your pediatrician, find the right medications for your child, keep important items (tissues, eye drops, and lotion) handy, and be mindful of your surroundings and the time your child spends outdoors. Taking precautions will keep everyone happy all season long.
Memphis, TN Pediatricians
No one knows the Mid South area – or children’s health – better than Pediatrics East! Combining our expertise of caring for kids with our knowledge of living in Memphis during allergy season, our pediatricians and staff are able to guide you through this time of year.
To discuss your child’s allergies or any questions you have about the season, schedule an appointment with us today. We look forward to seeing you and making this spring a healthy one for you and your family!
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