As the autumn air becomes increasingly chilly, children tend to spend more time indoors. While this gives them a break from the pollens that cause outdoor allergies, the sneezing may continue if they have trouble with indoor allergies.
“As many as 40 percent of children are affected by indoor allergies,” said Mary George, a pediatric nurse practitioner in Akron Children’s center for allergy and immunology. “Dust mites, pet dander and mold are common culprits.”
These allergic triggers may seem to be everywhere in your home, yet there are a number of steps you can take to ease your child’s symptoms. Here are our top 10 tips:
- Differentiate between allergies and the common cold. Common symptoms of indoor allergies include itchy eyes, a scratchy throat and runny nose with clear secretions. These annoyances may linger for weeks. Cold symptoms, on the other hand, might include chills and body aches and discolored (yellowish or greenish) nasal secretions. A cold rarely lasts more than 10 days.
- Be aware of indoor allergy triggers, such as:
– Dander and saliva from dogs, cats and other pets
– Urine in the bedding of guinea pigs, hamsters and mice
– Dust mites and their droppings
– Cockroach droppings
– Indoor mold and milde
- Keep your child’s mattress and pillow clean by sealing them in allergen-proof covers and washing bedding once a week in hot water. These 2 measures can decrease your child’s exposure to dust mites by up to 80 percent. If your child sleeps with a stuffed animal, take precautions to get rid of dust mites on it. If the toy cannot be washed, place it in a tightly tied plastic bag for 24 hours to suffocate the mites. Limit your child to just one stuffed animal in bed.
- Clean floors weekly using a vacuum with a HEPA air filter, and replace carpet with hard surfaced floors, if possible. Linoleum, tile and hardwood harbor fewer dust mites and other allergens.
- See that your child stays out of newly cleaned rooms for about a half hour. Cleaning can kick up dust and other allergens that can aggravate allergy symptoms.
- Keep pets out of your child’s bedroom, and bathe pets weekly.
- Keep bathrooms clean and well ventilated to inhibit growth of mold and mildew. When they do appear, use bleach to kill them. In other damp areas like basements, use dehumidifiers.
- Keep food preparation areas clean. Try to keep crumbs off counters and floors, make sure all food is well sealed and put away, and keep a tight lid on the garbage can. You don’t want to provide a food source for allergy-inducing bugs and mice.
- Do not let your allergic child clean pet cages. Have someone else routinely clean the cages of any mice, hamsters, rabbits or guinea pigs you may have. Regular cleaning will help prevent the spread of allergens.
- Prevent insects from entering your home by cleaning regularly (especially the kitchen), sealing cracks and openings, keeping your home free of water puddles and leaks, and putting away pet-food dishes when not in use.
When allergy symptoms persist or are severe, you should take your child to see an allergist who can pinpoint the causes of indoor allergies and recommend treatments, such as medications, allergy shots and home therapies.