Karen Cicero

Ah, spring. The warm weather has brought blooming flowers, green trees -- and a steady stream of sniffling, sneezing children in my office. Up to 40 percent of children suffer from seasonal allergies, and if yours is one of them, you know the discomfort that it can bring. Fortunately, there are things you can do to block allergens out of your home and relieve symptoms. I recommend taking the following five steps that reduce allergies so your little one can get out and enjoy the season!

1. Make sure it's allergies.

Parents often mistake colds for allergies, since many of the signs -- like sneezes and fatigue -- are the same. But colds tend to worsen, and your child starts feeling better at day four or five. But with allergies, the symptoms persist for more than two weeks and don't change. If that's the case, make an appointment with your pediatrician. He or she can diagnose your child and pinpoint the exact triggers, as well as prescribe medication or recommend an over-the-counter remedy (for children older than 2).

2. Avoid high-pollen days.

If your child's allergies are bothering him, encourage him to stay inside after the grass is cut or on days with high pollen counts. (You can check counts on AAAAI.org/NAB.) But try not to restrict him if his symptoms are mild -- kids are meant to go outside and play, after all.

3. Block allergens from your home.

To keep from tracking pollen throughout your home, leave shoes, bags and jackets at the door. Also wipe down pets when they enter the home and bathe them weekly; allergens can cling to their fur.

4. Remove other triggers.

Many children with seasonal allergies are also sensitive to other allergens, like dust mites, pet dander and perfume. To minimize exposure to dust mites, use mattress and pillow covers, launder your sheets every week, and vacuum carpeted areas three to five times a week. Also remember to wash soft toys, like teddy bears, regularly. And steer clear of products with fragrances, such as air fresheners and even baby powder.

5. Use a saline spray.

Is your son or daughter still stuffed up? One of the easiest and most effective ways to relieve the congestion is with a saline spray, which can loosen mucus. Although the results are temporary, it can offer significant relief.


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Health - 5 Simple Steps to Reduce Allergies