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Allergies get kids sniffling and sneezing in spring

(Photo provided)

With the arrival of spring, parents have been itching to ask me how they can tell the difference between an allergy or a common cold, so here goes:

¯ Between 40 and 50 million Americans are affected by allergic diseases. While most children with colds and allergies will have noses that run, children with allergies will do a lot more sniffling and sneezing, not to mention itching, along with having more watery eyes with dark circles from rubbing them so much due to allergic irritation.

¯ Common colds are caused by germs called viruses while allergies represent the body reacting to an environmental trigger such as pollen from grass, ragweed, and trees, mold, dust mites, animal dander, and even foods and medications — any of these can cause a release of chemicals including one called histamine that results in the allergic symptoms I just described.

¯ Colds are most common in the fall and winter whereas allergies occur during the spring, summer and early autumn and can run in families.

¯ Colds will last seven to 10 days while allergies can last for weeks or even months.

¯ If you think your child has an allergy, speak with your child’s health care professional who may help make the diagnosis or may refer your child to a pediatric allergy specialist who can do some further skin and blood tests to confirm the diagnosis of an allergy and what’s causing it. Remember that the best treatment may be to identify the irritant and remove it as much as possible from the home environment. For example, air conditioning or at least keeping windows closed will reduce pollen counts in the home and decrease the growth of molds and dust mites.

¯ Your child’s doctor or the allergy specialist may recommend a medication such as an antihistamine or a nasal spray steroid that can usually help treat the problem and if not, other allergy treatments may be recommended,

Hopefully, you’ll find tips like these scratch your itch when it comes to knowing more about your child having a seasonal allergy.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of pediatrics at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and NBC5.

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