Sniffles are More than a Cold
By Sally Robinson, M.D. and Keith P. Bly, M.D.
Children seem to pick up colds as quickly as they latch on to the
latest trendy toy. It seems that sneezing and sniffles are just
a part of childhood. But when the runny nose and sneezing last longer
than a week or recur
frequently, an allergic reaction could be to blame.
More than 35 million Americans suffer from some type of allergy,
and in most people, these allergies first appear during infancy
or childhood. Today, nearly six million children suffer from allergies,
which may cause a runny nose, sniffling and sneezing, and itchy,
red, watery eyes. Frequent ear infections or sinus problems are
also associated with the disorder. Children with allergies often
wipe their noses with an upward motion of the hand, sleep poorly
and complain of being tired.
This years warmer winter has created an abundance of
outdoor allergens, and the onset of summer could be a particularly
frustrating time for parents and children who suffer from seasonal
allegeries, said Dr. Edward
Brooks, allergy specialist at UTMB Childrens Hospital. But
identifying triggers will enable parents to make smart choices about
family and school activities during this time of year.
There are many airborne allergens that can prompt a childs
allergic symptoms, including pollen, dust mites, mold spores, food
and animal dander (hair or skin particles). An allergy specialist
can test your child to see what may be causing the allergies. Such
testing can be done with skin tests or blood tests. Unfortunately,
the tests can miss important allergies or even suggest an allergy
that doesnt exist. For these reasons, testing is
typically reserved for those with bothersome chronic symptoms or
life-threatening allergic reactions. In these more serious cases,
desensitization shots (also called allergy shots or immunotherapy)
can be used to
help prevent or symptoms.
Brooks said that in most cases shots arent necessary. As much
as possible, limit your childs exposure to suspected allergens.
Closing windows and running the air conditioner in warm weather,
keeping pets outside
(if dander is a problem) and frequently cleaning rugs, curtains,
stuffed animals and other dust catchers can help alleviate problems.
Also, keep kids away from tobacco smoke as its likely to set
off allergic attacks.
Medicines also are very useful for treating the annoying symptoms,
but check with your pediatrician before using any over-the-counter
allergy preparations. Prescription medicines may also be an option
in some cases.
Allergies do not mean a child is unhealthy or that he or she
necessarily has to limit outdoor activities, said Brooks.
Dont give in to the temptation to overprotect your allergy-prone
child. If you have questions about medicines, avoiding allergens
or to find about what activities your child can do, talk to your
information is not intended to replace the advice of a physician.
For more information, contact your pediatrician.
Sally Robinson is Professor of Pediatrics, and Dr. Keith Bly is
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical
Branch at Galveston Children's Hospital. For more information, visit: