Kids with allergies feel worse-off

Why Are My Allergies Worse at Night?

Kids with allergies feel worse-off

It’s the same thing almost every single night. You brush your teeth, finish your nightly routine, climb into bed, and immediately feel congested and sneezy.

If you suffer from allergies, your symptoms most ly get worse at night. This is something you share with other allergy patients. In fact, research shows that 74% of allergy sufferers wake up during the night because of allergy symptoms and over 90% of sufferers have difficulty sleeping.

What Triggers Allergy Night-Time Symptoms?

There are multiple potential triggers for night-time allergy symptoms. Indoor allergens including dust mites, pet dander, and pollen are a few examples. Dust mites could live in your bedroom. Pet dander, which is skin (as well as urine and saliva) and not fur, can stick to your clothing or bedding and cause allergy symptoms that way.

The same goes for pollen. It can exist indoors, and if you spend time outside and don’t immediately wash your hands and change your clothes and shoes, you could bring even more pollen inside your bedroom.

Types of Allergies that Could Become Worse During the Night

No matter what type of allergy you have, it can ruin your sleep. Rashes, food allergies, or an upset stomach triggered by allergies can cause sleep problems, but the most common pair of sleep-destroyers are nasal allergies and asthma, many of which stem from several common allergies including:

Dust Mites

Both asthma and allergy sufferers could have a dust mite allergy. Dust mites prefer carpeting, some furniture, and bedding to live in. That means they warmer indoor environments your bedroom, which is one reason your symptoms may get worse at night – there are more dust mites in your room. Nearly microscopic dust mites may live on your pillow, box spring, and mattress.

Dust mites may cause symptoms itchiness, a feeling of being unable to breathe, chest tightness, coughing, wheezing, eye itchiness and redness, nose stuffiness, and sneezing.

Pet Dander

Those who are allergic to pet dander can have instant reactions or longer-term symptoms. An animal doesn’t even have to be present for a pet dander allergic reaction to take place.

Dander can travel and land on lots of household and bedroom surfaces.

This means that, even if you don’t own a pet yourself, you can bring the dander home with you and then have to deal with allergy symptoms for days, maybe even longer.


As one of the most common allergy triggers, pollen affects millions of people in the United States. Although it’s an outdoor powder, pollen can travel anywhere. Animals can transport it, as can insects, birds, and the wind.

When you go outside, pollen particles settle on your skin, your hair, your clothes, and your shoes. If you don’t wash your clothes and take a shower, then you can end up having pollen in your bed. Sleeping with an open window can also allow pollen to get in as the sun rises and pollen counts do, too.

Indoor Mold

While you hope to never have to deal with indoor mildew and mold, it does happen. If you’re allergic to mold, then it could trigger your allergies and keep you up at night. That’s especially true if your bedroom is close to a bathroom.

While we’ll share some tips for avoiding allergies later in this article, you should clean indoor mold as soon as you spot it. To properly clean mold, mix bleach and water until you have a cleaning material made up of about five percent bleach. You can also use detergent in lieu of bleach.


Cockroaches can get in through your window and make you feel symptomatic. According to information from the ACAAI, up to 98 percent of US urban homes could have cockroach allergens, with 63 percent of all other homes potentially containing the insect allergen.

If you have a cockroach allergy, you may be more susceptible to sinus infections and ear infections. You might also experience wheezing, skin rashes, nasal congestion, and coughing as your symptoms.

Allergies and Sleep Apnea

When you have to wrestle with your allergies each night at bedtime, you may fitfully toss and turn and then wake up exhausted. It feels you slept for maybe an hour or two. As you drag on with your day, bleary-eyed and dead tired, it’s easy to assume you’re so exhausted because your stuffy nose, eye itchiness, and coughing kept you awake.

While that could be true, you could also be dealing with sleep apnea without even knowing it. Obstructive sleep apnea is a form of sleep apnea associated with allergies.

The nasal symptoms of your allergies make you snore when you might regularly don’t.

The sound of your snoring, while very distracting to a partner, can even bother you, causing you to wake up again and again throughout the night.

The upper airway is obstructed with this sleep apnea, either somewhat or all the way. Since your airway cannot open, the lungs don’t get as much air unless your chest muscles and diaphragm strain.

You can have obstructive sleep apnea and not even know it because you’re barely aware of what’s causing you to keep waking all night. Here are the other symptoms:

  • Constant exhaustion that makes it hard to get bed
  • A choking or gasping feeling that wakes you up, even several times a night
  • Snoring
  • Feelings of restlessness
  • Night sweating
  • Mood changes, depression, feeling forgetful, and difficulty with concentrating on tasks
  • Morning headaches
  • Sore throat and/or dry mouth in the morning

By seeing your provider, you can begin getting your case of obstructive sleep apnea under control.

How to Sleep Well with Allergies

If you’re not dealing with obstructive sleep apnea, there are some common tips you can follow to deal with your allergies and get a better night’s rest.

Take Precautions Against Higher Pollen Levels at Night

Surprisingly, pollen levels continue to rise throughout the night and peak around dawn. Keeping windows closed and running air conditioning with a premium air filter can help reduce nighttime allergy symptoms.

Consider that Your Pillow and Mattress May Be the Blame

Pillows and mattresses are great for you getting a good night’s sleep, but they also excel at harboring allergy triggers such as dust mites, pollen, and pet dander. Replacing pillows or covering them with an anti-allergy pillow case helps. In addition, there are anti-allergen mattress covers for sale that are effective in helping to relieve nighttime allergy symptoms.

Have Pets Sleep Elsewhere

In addition to dander, pets also carry dust mites, pollen and other allergens trapped in their coats.  Allowing them to sleep on your bed allows for these allergens to transfer onto bedding and night clothes making allergy symptoms worse.

Keep Your Sleeping Environment Allergen Free

You need your sleep, so, the room you sleep in needs to be cleaned often to remove pollen, dust mites, and other allergens. Vacuuming under the bed helps in this effort by removing allergens living underneath it.

A home-remedy that helps keep your bedroom allergen free is to wipe down hard flooring, molding and the walls near your bed with white vinegar. Mold is an allergen that enjoys living on dark walls and floors.

Dehumidifiers can help keep relative humidity at the recommended levels of 30-50% and air conditioning to maintain temperatures at 70 degrees F or below will retard dust mite and mold growth. Hardwood flooring is best.

Wash Before Sleeping

Throughout the day your body and hair are exposed to and collect allergens such as pollen and dust. Accordingly, if you shower or bathe in the morning, try switching your time to wash your hair and body before bed time so that you don’t bring allergens into bed with you.

Other Tips for Lessening Nighttime Allergies and Getting Better Sleep

Here are some of our top tips for getting your night allergies under control and your sleep back on track:

  • If you think it’s indoor mold that’s worsening your nighttime allergies, make sure you have adequate ventilation in every room of the house. This goes double for kitchens, bathrooms, and basements, where humidity levels can change more often.
  • For indoor mold allergies, you also want to use dehumidifiers in the above rooms, as these keep too much moisture from forming.
  • Make sure your home doesn’t have any pipes or roof seals with leaks. If you spot these, get them repaired.
  • For those with cockroach allergies, call an exterminator. They can tell you if there are any upstairs gaps where cockroaches can get into your bedroom. For instance, they may squeeze in through a window, a crack in the wall, or a small crevice.
  • After you’re done spending time with your pet, change clothes and wash the ones you wore while spending time with your animal. Don’t bring clothes into your bedroom unless they’re clean.
  • If you have a dust mite allergy, wash your sheets and other bedding at a high temperature, at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit. The hot water will help remove any lingering mites.
  • Make sure you change and clean your bedding every week to keep dust mites away.
  • Get plastic or fabric covers for your pillows, box spring, and mattresses so dust mites can’t get into your bed.

When to See a Specialist

Did you know that you are not able to sneeze when you are asleep? This means that one of the most important ways of ridding your body from allergens, sneezing, is unavailable while you sleep. This can lead to a worsening of symptoms that will wake you up.

Keeping your sleeping environment, your body, and your sleep clothes clear from allergens certainly cannot hurt you and often is enough to give you a comfortable night’s sleep. But, for some, it isn’t enough and the only available option is allergy medication.

If your allergies are making it difficult to sleep at night, contact Carolina Asthma and Allergy Center today. Since 1952, Carolina Asthma and Allergy Center has served the Charlotte metropolitan area.

Today, the center has 12 offices in and around Charlotte. All the 14 allergists at the center are board certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology.

To make an appointment at an office near you call 704-372-7900.


9 surprising things that make allergies worse

Kids with allergies feel worse-off

If you’re a seasonal allergy sufferer (60 million of Americans are), you probably already have a few tricks to avoid triggers, not running outside when pollen counts are sky-high or keeping the windows closed and blasting the AC. But you may not know about these less obvious factors that can make symptoms worse.

Enjoy the great outdoors – even if you’re allergic!

1. Stressful work deadlines. In a 2008 experiment, researchers at Ohio State University College of Medicine found that allergy sufferers had more symptoms.

after they took an anxiety-inducing test, compared with when they performed a task that did not make them tense. Stress hormones may stimulate the production of IgE, blood proteins that cause allergic reactions, says study author Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD.

If you’re under stress, get enough sleep. A sleep deficit can worsen both allergy symptoms and stress, she says.

Silent signals you are very stressed

2. An extra glass of wine with dinner. Alcohol can raise the risk of perennial allergic rhinitis by 3 percent for every additional alcoholic beverage consumed each week, Danish researchers found.

One potential reason: Bacteria and yeast in the alcohol produce histamines, chemicals that cause telltale allergy symptoms stuffy nose and itchy eyes. Avoid alcohol when your symptoms are acting up, says Richard F.

Lockey, MD, director of the division of allergy and immunology at the University of South Florida College of Medicine.

Stop seasonal allergies naturally

3. Waiting too long to take meds.

Medications that block histamines work best before you’re even exposed to allergens, says allergist James Sublett, MD, a spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.

Start medication a couple of weeks before the season commences or before you’ll be around allergens (if you react to grass, before a golf game, for example).

Simple ways to stop common allergies

4. A not-hot-enough washing machine. If you find yourself sniffling in bed, crank your washing machine to the hottest setting.

In a South Korean study, laundering cotton sheets at 140 degrees killed 100 percent of dust mites, while a warm 104 degree-wash destroyed just 6.5 percent. A machine's “sanitize” setting is ly hot enough; check the manual if your model lacks this option.

Some units heat water internally, but others use what flows through the pipes, so you may need to boost your water heater. (Caution: This temp can scald in 5 seconds.)

Is your laundry making you sick?

5. Houseplants that make you sneeze. Your innocent orchid could bring tears to your eyes. More than 75 percent of hay fever sufferers are allergic to at least one common houseplant, found a Belgian study.

Allergens in plant sap can diffuse into the air and set off your sniffling.

Though any potted greens can be trouble, researchers found that ficus, yucca, ivy, palm, orchid, and fern varieties are most irritating to allergy-prone people.

The best houseplants for every room

6. Skipping medication in the evening. One time not to forget your allergy med? Before bed—so the medication will be circulating in your bloodstream early the next day.

Symptoms such as sneezing, weepy eyes, and runny nose peak in the morning, says Richard J. Martin, MD, chair of the department of medicine at National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver.

Choose regular (instead of nondrowsy formulas) for extra help falling asleep promptly.

Natural home remedies that really work

7. Water workouts in an indoor pool. Chlorine-filled lap lanes can wreak havoc on your system.

Used to disinfect, chlorine is highly irritating to the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract, says Prevention advisor Andrew Weil, MD.

And a recent study in the journal Pediatrics found that teens who log more than 100 hours in a chlorinated pool have a 3 to 7 times higher risk of developing hay fever, compared with swimmers who dunk in chlorine-free pools.

To reap the benefits of your water workout without wheezing and sneezing, consider wearing a mask or goggles when swimming to protect your eyes from chlorine's temporarily irritating effects. Try to swim in outdoor pools, where the gas is more readily dispersed, instead of indoor ones, and avoid swimming in chlorinated pools daily.

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When Your Child Has Allergies

Kids with allergies feel worse-off

From the WebMD Archives

For the parent of a young baby or toddler, it's easy to miss the signs of nasal allergies.

“A lot of parents don't realize,” says Neeta Ogden, MD, an allergist in Closter, N.J. “They assume that the constant runny nose and sneezing are just what happens when a child's exposed to day care germs.”

While allergies in kids are underdiagnosed, the good news is that treatment really works. With medical care, your baby or toddler will not only feel better, but you could head off complications in the future, says Kenneth Bock, MD, pediatric neurotoxicologist and codirector of the Rhinebeck Health Center in Rhinebeck, N.Y.

Has your kid spent a lot of her life sneezing and drippy-nosed? Here's what you should know about nasal allergies in kids.

While allergies are the most common chronic disease in children, some pediatricians won't diagnose nasal allergies in kids until they're age 4 or 5, Ogden says. The conventional wisdom is that it takes a number of years before a true allergy can develop.

However, the waiting rooms of pediatric allergists tell a different story. “I see a lot of kids who are age 3 with signs of nasal allergies,” says Ogden. “I see some who are as young as 2.”

The symptoms of nasal allergies in kids include:

  • Runny and itchy nose
  • Congestion
  • Frequent sneezing
  • Chronic cough
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Allergic shiners — dark rings under the eyes
  • Mouth breathing, especially while asleep
  • Exhaustion, because of poor sleep quality
  • Symptoms that last longer than a couple of weeks

The problems with nasal allergies in kids go well beyond a runny nose. The constant congestion can lead to frequent sinus infections and ear infections. “Some kids have so many ear infections that they can't hear well,” says Ogden. “That can lead to developmental delays.”

Nasal allergies in kids are often linked with two other allergic conditions: eczema and asthma. In many kids, it starts with itchy patches of eczema as infants, progresses to nasal allergies as preschoolers, and then develops into asthma later.

Kids tend to be allergic to the same things that adults are, dust mites, pet dander, mold, and pollen. Some children also have allergies to foods, cow's milk, that can sometimes cause nasal symptoms.

The fragrances in household products cleaners, shampoos, detergents, and soaps an also be a problem. They may contain allergens as well as chemical irritants that worsen symptoms.

What increases the odds of allergies in kids? Some of it is genetic. “If a parent has allergies or eczema, that substantially increases the odds that their kids might have allergies too,” says Ogden.

Will your child outgrow her allergies? Ogden says that many kids do outgrow early food allergies. The long view is different with allergic rhinitis, however. “The nasal symptoms might wax and wane over the years,” says Ogden, “but the allergy itself tends to stick around.”

The key to treating nasal allergies in kids is finding the allergic trigger. That can be tricky, especially in babies or toddlers. Allergy blood tests work fairly well in kids 3 and older, but they're not very reliable in children younger than that, Ogden says.

“It can take a little medical detective work to figure out what's causing the symptoms in young kids,” says Bock. Ask yourself some questions. Have the symptoms changed:

  • At different times of the year?
  • When you're away from home or from household pets?
  • When your child has been day care for a few days?
  • After a leak or flood?
  • After renovations?

Making note of any changes in your child's symptoms could be helpful for your doctor. With food allergies, an elimination diet can be a way of finding the cause, Bock tells WebMD.

When you're trying to determine what your child might be allergic to, be methodical and work with your doctor. Don't jump to conclusions.

Some parents focus on a specific allergen without much evidence. As a result they waste effort and money making radical changes to their households — banning common foods or undertaking extensive renovations. Then they find that their kid is still sneezing, and they were treating an allergy he didn't really have.

If your kid does have nasal allergies, your doctor might suggest allergy medicine. You might worry about using medicines in a young child, but there are some safe and effective treatments available. Go over the pros and cons with your doctor — and never start using an over-the-counter allergy drug without a pediatrician's consent.

One key to good allergic control doesn't involve medicine. If you can keep your kids away from whatever triggers their symptoms, they'll feel better. That's the basic premise of environmental control. Here's how it's done.

  • Cover your child's crib or bed mattress with a dust mite-proof cover. Dust mites are a common cause of nasal allergies in kids. Ogden also recommends washing bedding weekly in hot water with an extra rinse cycle.
  • Get rid of the stuffed animals. Yes, it might seem heartless to take away your child's favorites. But stuffed animals can be a haven for dust mites and other allergens. If you don't remove them, wash them regularly in hot water. Sticking them in the refrigerator for 24 hours can also help, Ogden says, since it will help kill dust mites.
  • Keep your child's room uncluttered. The less stuff in your child's room, the less dust — and the fewer potentials allergens.
  • Remove carpets and heavy drapes. They just trap dust and allergens. Use rugs that you can wash instead.
  • Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter. Standard vacuums might not have filters that are fine enough to catch allergens. As a result, they might spew those allergens back into the air.
  • Clean with a wet rag or mop. Sweeping or dusting might just move the allergens around.
  • Use air conditioners to filter allergens from outside. Clean or replace the filter regularly, Ogden says.
  • Reduce your reliance on chemical cleaners with strong scents. They're common irritants that can worsen allergies. Some fragrances contain allergens.
  • Don't allow smoking in the house. Tobacco smoke can be hard on kids with nasal allergies.
  • Remove pets from the household. If dander seems to be a problem, you may need to think about finding a new home for your pet. At the very least, keep pets your child's bedroom and playroom.

If these suggestions seem more than you can handle, remember that even small steps can help. Babies and toddlers with nasal allergies can handle some exposure to an allergen without symptoms. It's only once the allergens reach a certain concentration that the allergic response kicks in.

In the same way, a kid with nasal allergies might only have symptoms after exposure to multiple allergens, says Bock.

“Allergies are additive,” Bock tells WebMD. “It's not always just a pollen or just a food.” For instance, a child with an egg allergy might find that it only flares up during ragweed season. It can take a combination of exposures to push the body into an allergic reaction.

Your goal doesn't need to be an allergen-free home. Making a few sensible changes and reducing your child's overall exposure may be enough to stop the symptoms.

Trying to get a handle on your baby or toddler's nasal allergies can be frustrating. Try not to get overwhelmed.

“It's really important that parents don't feel they’re in this alone,” Bock says. Instead, you need to work together with your child's pediatrician or allergist.

“You might not get the answer to your child's allergy symptoms right away,” Bock tells WebMD. “But together you and a doctor can chip away at the problem.” In time, you'll find the right approach — and everyone will breathe a little easier.


Tanya Remer Altmann, MD, pediatrician; clinical instructor, Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA, Los Angeles; author, Mommy Calls: Dr. Tanya Answers Parents' Top 101 Questions About Babies and Toddlers.

Kenneth Bock, MD, pediatric neurotoxicologist; co-founder and co-director, Rhinebeck Health Center, Rhinebeck, N.Y; author, Healing the New Childhood Epidemics.

Sonya Lunder, MPH, senior analyst, Environmental Working Group, Washington, D.C.

Neeta Ogden, MD, allergist, Closter, N.J.

American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.

Healthy Child Healthy World: “Clean Carpets without Dangerous Chemicals.”

Seattle Children's Hospital.

© 2010 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.


All About Allergies

Kids with allergies feel worse-off

Allergies are abnormal immune system reactions to things that are typically harmless to most people. When a person is allergic to something, the immune system mistakenly believes that this substance is harming the body.

Substances that cause allergic reactions — such as some foods, dust, plant pollen, or medicines — are known as allergens.

Allergies are a major cause of illness in the United States. Up to 50 million Americans, including millions of kids, have some type of allergy. In fact, allergies cause about 2 million missed school days each year.

How Do Allergies Happen?

An allergy happens when the immune system& overreacts to an allergen, treating it as an invader and trying to fight it off. This causes symptoms that can range from annoying to serious or even life-threatening.

In an attempt to protect the body, the immune system makes antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies then cause certain cells to release chemicals (including histamine) into the bloodstream to defend against the allergen “invader.”

It's the release of these chemicals that causes allergic reactions. Reactions can affect the eyes, nose, throat, lungs, skin, and gastrointestinal tract. Future exposure to that same allergen will trigger this allergic response again.

Some allergies are seasonal and happen only at certain times of the year ( when pollen counts are high); others can happen anytime someone comes in contact with an allergen. So, when a person with a food allergy eats that particular food or someone who's allergic to dust mites is exposed to them, they will have an allergic reaction.

Who Gets Allergies?

The tendency to develop allergies is often hereditary, which means it can be passed down through genes from parents to their kids. But just because you, your partner, or one of your children might have allergies doesn't mean that all of your kids will definitely get them. And someone usually doesn't inherit a particular allergy, just the lihood of having allergies.

Some kids have allergies even if no family member is allergic, and those who are allergic to one thing are ly to be allergic to others.

Common Airborne Allergens

Some of the most common things people are allergic to are airborne (carried through the air):

  • Dust mites are microscopic insects that live all around us and feed on the millions of dead skin cells that fall off our bodies every day. They're the main allergic component of house dust. Dust mites are present year-round in most parts of the United States and live in bedding, upholstery, and carpets.
  • Pollen is a major cause of allergies (a pollen allergy is often called hay fever or rose fever). Trees, weeds, and grasses release these tiny particles into the air to fertilize other plants. Pollen allergies are seasonal, and the type of pollen someone is allergic to determines when symptoms happen. Pollen counts measure how much pollen is in the air and can help people with allergies predict how bad their symptoms might be on any given day. Pollen counts are usually higher in the morning and on warm, dry, breezy days, and lowest when it's chilly and wet.
  • Molds are fungi that thrive both indoors and outside in warm, moist environments. Outdoors, molds can be found in poor drainage areas, such as in piles of rotting leaves or compost piles. Indoors, molds thrive in dark, poorly ventilated places such as bathrooms and damp basements. Molds tend to be seasonal, but some can grow year-round, especially those indoors.
  • Pet allergens are caused by pet dander (tiny flakes of shed skin) and animal saliva. When pets lick themselves, the saliva gets on their fur or feathers. As the saliva dries, protein particles become airborne and work their way into fabrics in the home. Pet urine also can cause allergies in the same way when it gets on airborne fur or skin, or when a pet pees in a spot that isn't cleaned.
  • Cockroaches are also a major household allergen, especially in inner cities. Exposure to cockroach-infested buildings may be a major cause of the high rates of asthma in inner-city kids.

Common Food Allergens

Up to 2 million, or 8%, of kids in the United States are affected by food allergies. Eight foods account for most of those: cow's milk, eggs, fish and shellfish, peanuts and tree nuts, soy, and wheat.

  • Cow's milk(or cow's milk protein). Between 2% and 3% of children younger than 3 years old are allergic to the proteins found in cow's milk and cow's milk-based formulas. Most formulas are cow's milk-based. Milk proteins also can be a hidden ingredient in prepared foods. Many kids outgrow milk allergies.
  • Eggs. Egg allergy can be a challenge for parents. Eggs are used in many of the foods kids eat — and in many cases they're “hidden” ingredients. Kids tend to outgrow egg allergies as they get older.
  • Fish and shellfish. These allergies are some of the more common adult food allergies and ones that people usually don't outgrow. Fish and shellfish are from different families of food, so having an allergy to one does not necessarily mean someone will be allergic to the other.
  • Peanuts and tree nuts. Peanut allergies are on the rise, and as are allergies to tree nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, and cashews. Most people do not outgrow peanut or tree nut allergies.
  • Soy. Soy allergy is more common among babies than older kids. Many infants who are allergic to cow's milk are also allergic to the protein in soy formulas. Soy proteins are often a hidden ingredient in prepared foods.
  • Wheat. Wheat proteins are found in many foods, and some are more obvious than others. Although wheat allergy is often confused with celiac disease, there is a difference. Celiac disease is a sensitivity to gluten (found in wheat, rye, and barley). But a wheat allergy can do more than make a person feel ill — other food allergies, it also can cause a life-threatening reaction.

Other Common Allergens

  • Insect allergy. For most kids, being stung by an insect means swelling, redness, and itching at the site of the bite. But for those with insect venom allergy, an insect sting can cause more serious symptoms.
  • Medicines. Antibiotics are the most common type of medicines that cause allergic reactions. Many other others, including over-the-counter medicines (those you can buy without a prescription), also can cause allergic reactions.
  • Chemicals. Some cosmetics or laundry detergents can make people break out in hives. Usually, this is because someone has a reaction to the chemicals in these products, though it may not always be an allergic reaction. Dyes, household cleaners, and pesticides used on lawns or plants also can cause allergic reactions in some people.

Some kids also have what are called cross-reactions.

For example, kids who are allergic to birch pollen might have symptoms when they eat an apple because that apple is made up of a protein similar to one in the pollen. And for reasons that aren't clear, people with a latex allergy (found in latex gloves and some kinds of hospital equipment) are more ly to be allergic to foods  kiwi, chestnuts, avocados, and bananas.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Allergies?

The type and severity of allergy symptoms vary from allergy to allergy and person to person. Allergies may show up as itchy eyes, sneezing, a stuffy nose, throat tightness, trouble breathing, vomiting, and even fainting or passing out.

Kids with severe allergies (such as those to food, medicine, or insect venom) can be at risk for a sudden, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can happen just seconds after being exposed to an allergen or not until a few hours later (if the reaction is from a food).

So doctors will want anyone diagnosed with a life-threatening allergy to carry an epinephrine auto-injector in case of an emergency. Epinephrine works quickly against serious allergy symptoms; for example, it reduces swelling and raises low blood pressure.

Airborne Allergy Symptoms

Airborne allergens can cause something known as allergic rhinitis, which usually develops by 10 years of age, reaches its peak in the teens or early twenties, and often disappears between the ages of 40 and 60.

Symptoms can include:

  • sneezing
  • itchy nose and/or throat
  • stuffy nose
  • coughing

When symptoms also include itchy, watery, and/or red eyes, this is called allergic conjunctivitis. (Dark circles that sometimes show up around the eyes are called allergic “shiners.”)

Food, Medicines, or Insect Allergy Symptoms

  • wheezing
  • trouble breathing
  • coughing
  • hoarseness
  • throat tightness
  • stomachache
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • itchy, watery, or swollen eyes
  • hives
  • swelling
  • a drop in blood pressure, causing lightheadedness or loss of consciousness

Allergic reactions can vary. Sometimes, a person can have a mild reaction that affects only one body system, hives on the skin. Other times, the reaction can be more serious and involve more than one part of the body. A mild reaction in the past does not mean that future reactions will be mild.

How Are Allergies Diagnosed?

Some allergies are fairly easy to identify but others are less obvious because they can be similar to other conditions.

If your child has cold- symptoms lasting longer than a week or two or develops a “cold” at the same time every year, talk with your doctor, who might diagnose an allergy and prescribe medicines, or may refer you to an allergist (a doctor who is an expert in the treatment of allergies) for allergy tests.

To find the cause of an allergy, allergists usually do skin tests for the most common environmental and food allergens. A skin test can work in one of two ways:

  1. A drop of a purified liquid form of the allergen is dropped onto the skin and the area is scratched with a small pricking device.
  2. A small amount of allergen is injected just under the skin. This test stings a little but isn't painful.

After about 15 minutes, if a lump surrounded by a reddish area ( a mosquito bite) appears at the site, the test is positive.

Blood tests may be done instead for kids with skin conditions, those who are on certain medicines, or those who are very sensitive to a particular allergen.

Even if testing shows an allergy, a child also must have symptoms to be diagnosed with an allergy. For example, a toddler who has a positive test for dust mites and sneezes a lot while playing on the floor would be considered allergic to dust mites.

How Are Allergies Treated?

There's no cure for allergies, but symptoms can be managed. The best way to cope with them is to avoid the allergens. That means that parents must educate their kids early and often, not only about the allergy itself, but also about the reactions they can have if they consume or come into contact with the allergen.

Telling all caregivers (childcare staff, teachers, family members, parents of your child's friends, etc.) about your child's allergy is also important.

If avoiding environmental allergens isn't possible or doesn't help, doctors might prescribe medicines, including antihistamines, eye drops, and nasal sprays. (Many of these also are available without a prescription.)

In some cases, doctors recommend allergy shots (immunotherapy) to help desensitize a person to an allergen. But allergy shots are only helpful for allergens such as dust, mold, pollens, animals, and insect stings. They're not used for food allergies.

Airborne Allergies

To help kids avoid airborne allergens:

  • Keep family pets your child's bedroom.
  • Remove carpets or rugs from your child's room (hard floors don't collect dust as much as carpets do).
  • Don't hang heavy drapes and get rid of other items that allow dust to build up.
  • Clean when your child is not in the room.
  • Use special covers to seal pillows and mattresses if your child is allergic to dust mites.
  • If your child has a pollen allergy, keep the windows closed when pollen season is at its peak, have your child take a bath or shower and change clothes after being outdoors, and don't let him or her mow the lawn.
  • Keep kids who are allergic to mold away from damp areas, such as some basements, and keep bathrooms and other mold-prone areas clean and dry.

Food Allergies

Kids with food allergies must completely avoid products made with their allergens. This can be tough as allergens are found in many unexpected foods and products.

Always read labels to see if a packaged food contains your child's allergen.

Manufacturers of foods sold in the United States must state in understandable language whether foods contain any of the top eight most common allergens. This label requirement makes things a little easier.

But it's important to remember that “safe” foods could become unsafe if food companies change ingredients, processes, or production locations.

Cross-contamination means that the allergen is not one of the ingredients in a product, but might have come into contact with it during production or packaging.

Companies are not required to label for cross-contamination risk, though some voluntarily do so.

You may see statements such as “May contain…,” “Processed in a facility that also processes…,” or “Manufactured on equipment also used for ….”

Because products without such statements also might be cross-contaminated and the company did not label for it, it's always best to contact the company to see if the product could contain your child's allergen. Look for this information on the company's website or email a company representative.

Cross-contamination also can happen at home or in restaurants when kitchen surfaces or utensils are used for different foods.

Reviewed by: Jordan C. Smallwood, MD

Date reviewed: October 2016


9 Habits That Can Make Your Child’s Allergies Worse

Kids with allergies feel worse-off

If your child is allergic to indoor or outdoor allergens pollen, pet dander, and dust, you’re probably already taking steps to avoid triggers and manage symptoms. But did you know that some things you’re doing at home could actually worsen your child’s stuffy nose, cough, and itchy, watery eyes?

Here are nine habits you may want to avoid to help make managing your child's allergies easier:

1. Making your child’s bed every day.

Resist the urge to tuck in and cover up your child’s sheets, even if you cringe at the sight of an unmade bed. You may not be able to eliminate dust mites completely, but airing out beds can help limit your child’s exposure.

These microscopic organisms thrive in warm and humid environments, bedding and upholstered furniture, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).

Leaving a bed unmade or simply folding the sheets down at the foot of the bed can allow them to cool off and dry out, says Brian Schroer, MD, an allergist at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital Center for Pediatric Allergy.

2. Washing bedding in cold water.

Washing your child’s bedding frequently to reduce exposure to dust mites is a good idea, but it’s important to use the hot-water cycle on your washing machine, says Joyce Rabbat, MD, an assistant professor and pediatric allergist/immunologist at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois. The water should be at least 130° F to kill dust mites, according to the AAAAI.

“Allergen encasings can also help create a barrier from exposure to dust mites overnight,” Dr. Rabbat says. Use allergy-proof covers on items that can’t be easily washed.

3. Allowing your child to sleep with stuffed animals.

The same dust mites found on bed linens can also be on the surface of plush toys, Dr. Schroer says, so “try to limit the number of stuffed animals on the bed to just one or two.” bedding, plush toys should be washed frequently in hot water and placed in the dryer for about 20 minutes to help eliminate dust mites, he says.

4. Wearing shoes in the house.

Pollen can stick to children’s shoes when they're playing outside, causing them to unwittingly bring pollen into your living space, Schroer says. You can avoid this by enforcing a no-shoes policy at home or designating some shoes to be worn indoors only.

5. Skipping a shower before bed.

Pollen can also cling to your child’s hair and clothing, the AAAAI says. If your child goes to bed without taking a shower, this pollen can get on the sheet and pillows, Schroer says.

6. Having a furry pet.

There is no such thing as a hypoallergenic breed of dog or cat. Pet allergies don’t really involve fur. Allergic reactions are from contact with proteins in the animal's saliva, dander, and urine, according to the AAAAI.

If your child has a pet allergy and you have a furry pet, he or she will be exposed to these allergens, even if you keep the pet outside, limit where it can roam around the house, or give the animal a daily bath, Schroer says.

“Animal allergens are light — they float and stay in the air,” he says. “They’re also sticky and can be carried from room to room by people and pets. Bathing a pet may reduce allergens temporarily, but they’ll start to collect again within a day.”

When it comes to pets, it’s essential to consider the severity of your child’s allergy and determine if symptoms are affecting his or her sleep and overall quality of life, Schroer says. “If your child’s nose is stuffy all the time and it's affecting school and sleep, then you need to think about what’s most important,” he says.

7. Opening the windows.

Letting in some fresh air may seem a good idea, but this can backfire for kids with environmental allergies, particularly when the pollen count is high.

Opening windows and doors allows pollen to blow inside, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

Running an air conditioner at home and in your car can help minimize your child’s exposure to outdoor allergens and reduce nasal allergy symptoms, Schroer says.

8. Hanging laundry outside to dry.

While this might be a good way to save energy, wet clothes and linens hung can be a magnet for pollen, the NIEHS says. If your child has a pollen allergy and sleeps on these sheets or dries off with one of these towels, his or her symptoms may worsen. Instead of using an outside clothesline, hang sheets and clothes inside to dry or use a clothes dryer, Schroer says.

9. Using a broom.

Old-school sweeping and dusting can kick up dust in the air, causing dust allergies to flare.

Instead, use a vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to clean your home, suggests the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. The U.S.

Environmental Protection Agency reports that HEPA filters effectively remove airborne indoor particles that can worsen environmental allergies.