Allergies are very common in children. It is estimated that up to 40% of children in Australia and New Zealand will be affected by allergies at some point in their lives. The likelihood of Australian parents having to deal with allergy symptoms in their children is therefore quite high.
A runny nose is usually the main symptom of allergies in children. They may also rub their nose a lot, known as the ‘allergic salute’. Hayfever may also cause red, itchy eyes, sneezing and dark circles under the eyes. These symptoms make it difficult to know whether your child is suffering from hayfever or an illness such as a cold or flu, as the symptoms are similar. Differentiating between the two is the first step toward getting them the proper treatment they need. Some signs that may help determine if it is allergies include:
A mild cold may only last for a few days, whereas a more severe one can cause symptoms for up to two weeks. If symptoms persist for longer than this, an allergy may be the cause. Nasal discharge may also become thicker as a cold runs its course. Both allergies and colds can be distinguished from other viral infections, such as influenza, by a lack of high grade fever, significant fatigue and coloured sputum.
When the symptoms occur
The timing of symptoms may also help determine their cause. An allergy will cause symptoms that are persistent or that recur in certain situations. For example, hayfever is due to an allergy to pollens. The symptoms therefore often occur in the spring, summer or autumn, when the responsible plant releases its pollen into the air.
Relief of symptoms
Another way to help you discover whether your child’s symptoms are due to allergies is to see how well certain measures work to relieve them. You can start by avoiding your child’s possible allergy triggers as much as possible. Close the windows at home and in the car to minimise dust and pollen levels in the air. Saline nasal washes or sprays may also help to alleviate symptoms by rinsing pollen and mucus from your child’s nose.
Speak to their healthcare professionals
In some cases, a daily antihistamine may be necessary, especially during allergy season. If you are still unsure about how to tackle your child’s allergy problem, see a doctor. They can advise an appropriate treatment plan. If necessary, they can also arrange for an allergy test, in order to pinpoint the exact allergen involved.
For more information, ASCIA website.