Allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to substances that are otherwise harmless. The most
common allergies are caused by everyday, airborne particles such as pollens or house dust mites.
Common Allergy Symptoms:
• Runny nose
• Watery eyes
• Itchy nose, eyes and roof of mouth
• Stuffy nose
• Pressure in the nose and cheeks
• Ear fullness and popping
• Dark circles under the eyes
Things that can make your allergy symptoms worse:
• Aerosol sprays
• Air pollution
• Cold temperatures
• Irritating fumes
• Tobacco smoke
• Wood smoke
Pollen From Trees, Grasses And Weeds
Hay fever, also called seasonal allergic rhinitis, is the allergic reaction set off during a particular season by
pollens from trees, grasses and weeds. It is different from year-round allergies that usually are triggered by
molds, animal dander and dust mites.
Hay fever is one of the most common chronic diseases in the United States, causing more than 10,000
absences on a typical school day. Children allergic to airborne allergens can have a congested or runny nose,
postnasal drip, coughing and itchy eyes. Children who suffer from chronic hay fever often can be
recognized by their "allergic shiners" — dark rings under their eyes — and by the fact that they often
breathe through their mouths instead of their noses. In more severe cases, hay fever also can interfere with
a child's breathing, causing him or her to wheeze.
The best way to avoid or minimize hay-fever reactions is to limit exposure to allergens. Here are some tips:
• Keep windows closed to prevent pollens from entering.
• Keep your child indoors when the pollen count is high, especially on warm, sunny days and in the late
morning and early evening.
• Minimize activities such as lawn mowing or leaf raking.
• Use air conditioners in those rooms in which your child spends most time to reduce his or her
exposure to pollen.
• Wash curtains, rugs and sheets frequently, using detergents that have no dyes, perfumes and other
potentially irritating additives.
As much as 10% of the population in the United States is believed to be allergic to molds. As much as 80%
of people with other respiratory allergies are sensitive to molds.
Molds are microscopic organisms that thrive in damp areas, including plants; the bathroom, closets and
basement; and air conditioning and dehumidifier filters. Because molds prefer dampness, mold allergies are
more prevalent in humid climates.
Here are some tips to help keep your house as clean and dry as possible:
• Eliminate indoor plants to minimize mold growth in damp soil.
• Use dehumidifiers and air conditioners in the house.
• Maintain heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems. Keep them clean and change the filters
• Keep your yard raked, and do not leave piles of damp leaves or mulch.
• Leave a low-wattage light bulb turned on in your child's closet to prevent mildew.
• Because fish tanks and bowls can generate moisture, do not put them in your child's bedroom.
House dust is a major cause of year-round allergy symptoms. It is not the dust itself that causes allergies,
but dust mites, microscopic spiderlike insects found in the dust. Just a trace of house dust can contain
thousands of dust mites. They leave behind excrement and body parts, which can trigger allergic reactions.
Dust mites can be anywhere, but they thrive in carpets, textured drapes, upholstered furniture, bookshelves,
closets, toys and stuffed animals.
Each female dust mite can produce 20 to 30 offspring, and each mite produces 200 times its weight in fecal
matter in its life span. In general, dust mites thrive and reproduce faster in summer weather and humidity.
But dust-mite allergies are more common and cause more problems during the winter heating season
because the body parts disintegrate into house dust. In addition, children spend more time inside where the
windows are closed and the air recirculated.
The most effective way to control dust-mite allergies is to control dust mites through careful attention to
house cleaning. That means washing sheets, curtains and other fabrics in your child's room often in hot
water with detergents that do not contain irritating ingredients. Consider encasing your child's mattress and
pillow in a waterproof or allergy-proof covering.
If cleaning does not relieve your child's allergies, consider removing rugs, drapes and upholstered furniture
from your child's bedroom. Research has found that special chemicals for killing mites are no more effective
than careful cleaning and are not recommended.
The best way to minimize dust-mite allergy is to limit exposure to dust-mite allergens in the bedroom. Here
are some tips:
• Remove feather pillows, down comforters and wool blankets. Substitute bedding made of washable,
hypoallergenic synthetic materials.
• Encase bedding in waterproof, or allergy-proof, zippered coverings to entomb the dust mites. This is
one of the most effective ways to reduce mite allergies. Remember, children spend about half their time in
• Wash bedding weekly in hot water.
• Leave a spread on the bed during the day to accumulate dust. Before your child climbs into bed,
remove the spread and replace it in the morning. Shake out bedding daily when your child is not around.
• Minimize dust. Use washable rugs and curtains and washable stuffed animals, and keep them clean.
Washable blinds and an uncluttered decor are more easily kept dust-free. Damp mop the floor and dust
furniture frequently with a damp cloth. Damp mopping controls dust on uncarpeted floors better than
• Keep the closet door closed, and hang only those clothes that are in regular use.
Allergies and asthma in inner-city children seem to be on the rise. Between 40% and 60% of children with
asthma and 20 percent and 53% of children with allergies have reactions to cockroaches.
Cockroaches most commonly are found in kitchens, bathrooms and basements. The best way to control
these allergens is to use a professional exterminator to treat the house or apartment. If you live in an
apartment, neighboring apartments must also be treated at the same time. Keep your kitchen clean with no
waste food accessible. Avoid leaving food out or bringing food into other parts of the house. This will
reduce the likelihood of infestation.
Here are some tips to limit exposure:
• Store all food in sealed containers.
• Wash dirty dishes and silverware immediately.
• Do not leave crumbs on the counter or floors.
• Do not leave out pet food.
• Keep your garbage can well sealed.
• Treat your kitchen with a pesticide or sprinkle boric acid powder in areas where you have seen the
bugs. Keep these and all poisons out of the reach of children and pets.
• Do not stack empty grocery bags or newspapers for recycling. Cockroaches live and lay eggs in the
piles of paper and cardboard boxes.
• Seal any holes around pipes, windows, doors and baseboards to prevent cockroaches from entering
In children who are allergic to animals, the allergy is actually to pet dander, tiny skin cells that the pet sheds,
not to the fur itself. You may be able to limit your child's allergic symptoms by limiting the area in which the
pet lives to the kitchen or the yard. However, for many families, having an allergic child means not having a
furry pet. For some children the only safe pet is a fish or snake. If you already have a pet and must find a
new home for it, include your child in the decision. However, finding a new home for your pet will not
alleviate the allergy immediately. Cat dander in particular clings to all kinds of surfaces, which means that it
will take time to rid the house of the allergens.
Here are some tips for avoiding or minimizing pet-dander allergies:
• Keep furry pets outside or find them a new home.
• If you keep the pet, keep it out of your child's bedroom at all times.
• Washing your pet can reduce dander for about a week, although this has not been proven to reduce
• Wash clothes frequently. Pet dander can cling to clothes, especially to wool.
Insect stings are expected misfortunes in childhood. Even when insect stings are quite painful, they are
rarely serious. True allergies to insect venom are rare, but they are potentially life threatening.
Insect stings usually cause swelling, pain and itching. Inflammation of the skin and underlying tissue can be
extensive. A child's entire arm, foot or hand, for example, can swell up. When a reaction involves only
swelling of the surface tissues, even if a large part of the arm or leg is involved, it is considered to be a
"local" reaction. Local reactions are not usually dangerous, and they are not a sign of allergy.
If several insects sting your child at the same time, or if one insect releases a large amount of venom, it is
possible for your child to have symptoms that are not part of the local reaction, but are still not allergic. This
kind of reaction is called a "toxic" reaction. The usual symptoms of a toxic reaction are nausea, vomiting,
diarrhea, dizziness, headache and fever. In rare cases, a toxic reaction can cause a seizure or a loss of
consciousness. A toxic reaction is not caused by allergy, but the large venom exposure that results in a toxic
reaction very frequently creates a new allergy that can be problematic with future stings or bites. A child
who has a toxic reaction may benefit from an allergy evaluation after recovery.
In a child who is allergic to the venom of a stinging insect, a sting may cause a medical emergency. Most
allergic reactions are mild, but if a reaction is severe, there is a chance it could be fatal without immediate
Here are some guidelines for what to do if your child is bitten or stung:
• Watch your child closely after an insect sting so you are aware if concerning symptoms develop.
• Get immediate medical help (dial 911) if your child begins to have any of the following symptoms.
These are symptoms that can come from a "systemic" allergic reaction, not a local reaction. These
symptoms can each be a part of the dangerous allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, which can be life-
threatening if it affects your child's breathing or blood pressure:
- Trouble breathing or swallowing
- A hoarse voice
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sudden diarrhea
- Abdominal pain
- New nose discharge or eye weeping immediately after the sting that can't be explained by crying
- Inflammation around the eyes that can't be explained by crying
- A swollen pink rash (hives or welts) on parts of the body that are far from the original sting
- A feeling of faintness
- Tongue or mouth swelling
- A seizure or black-out (loss of consciousness)
If your child has any of above symptoms after a sting, your child needs medical attention. After recovery,
you will need to talk to your doctor about carrying epinephrine (a medication to treat anaphylaxis) in case of
another sting, and about an evaluation by an allergy specialist.
Some children exhibit a hypersensitivity to latex, the natural rubber found in rubber gloves, balloons, baby-
bottle nipples, toys or pacifiers. A latex allergy occurs when the immune system reacts to proteins found in
latex, triggering a defensive reaction that can cause unpleasant and, in some cases, life-threatening
symptoms. The most common symptom of latex allergy is a rash where the skin comes in contact with the
latex. Balloons can cause lip and facial swelling.
In rare cases, latex can cause a severe allergic reaction, called anaphylaxis. This can be fatal if not treated
immediately. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include facial swelling, spreading rash, trouble breathing, dizziness or
fainting, a rapid heartbeat, stomachache or diarrhea. If any of these occur, call 911 right away.
Children who have undergone many surgeries, such as children with spina bifida or other birth defects that
require surgery are most vulnerable to latex hypersensitivity, most likely because of repeated exposure. Also,
children who are allergic to kiwi, banana, chestnut, papaya, peach, nectarine, and avocado may be more
prone to latex allergy because of proteins in them that are similar to latex proteins. If your child has to
undergo a surgical procedure and already exhibits such food sensitivities, ask your doctor to test your child
for latex allergy so that latex-free medical care can be provided.
If your child has been diagnosed with a latex allergy, talk to your doctor about carrying epinephrine (the
medication used to treat anaphylaxis) in case of an accidental exposure. It is important that all people caring
for your child be aware of the allergy; if this isn't possible, a medical alert bracelet may be a good idea.
An allergic reaction may occur anywhere in the body, in the skin, eyes, lining of the stomach, nose, sinuses,
throat, and lungs places where immune system cells are located to fight off invaders that are inhaled,
swallowed, or come in contact with the skin.
Reactions may result in:
• rhinitis - nasal stuffiness, sneezing, nasal itching, nasal discharge, itching in ears or roof of mouth
• allergic conjunctivitis - red, itchy, watery eyes
• atopic dermatitis - red, itchy, dry skin
• urticaria - hives or itchy welts
• contact dermatitis - itchy rash
• asthma - airway problems such as shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing
Food allergies are most common in the first 3 years of life; approximately 6% of U.S. children have them.
The latest studies estimate that 4% of the U.S. population in all age groups has food allergies. The immune
system helps to protest us from infection by identifying and attacking bacteria or viruses that can cause
illness. When the immune system mistakenly responds to a food protein, inflammation and damage to the
intestinal tract may result. However, having a food allergy does not mean that your child is at increased risk
Symptoms of a food allergy can include:
• Poor feeding
• Bloody stools
Food allergy can present with an immediate or a delayed reaction. In immediate reactions which occur
within minutes to hours, the child may develop hives, wheezing, or swelling of the face as well as tightness
of the chest. The reaction can be so severe that the child cannot breathe (anaphylaxis). Emergency treatment
is needed. Luckily, these dangerous reactions are relatively uncommon.
Delayed reactions occur from hours to days after eating the offending food. Symptoms may include
vomiting, pain, diarrhea, blood stools, or poor growth. Some children may have hives or eczema. Delayed
reactions are the most common form of food allergy.
Foods Which May Cause Allergies
Approximately 90 percent of all food allergies are caused by eight foods:
• tree nuts
Eggs, milk, and peanuts are the most common causes of food allergies in children, with wheat, soy, and tree
nuts also included. Peanuts, nuts, fish, and shellfish commonly cause the most severe reactions. Nearly 5
percent of children have food allergies. Although most children "outgrow" their allergies, allergy to peanuts
and tree nuts may be life-long.
Food Allergy Symptoms
Allergic symptoms may begin within minutes to an hour after ingesting the food. Symptoms can include:
• itching or swelling of the lips, tongue, or mouth
• itching or tightness in the throat
• difficulty breathing
• lowered blood pressure
Diagnosing and Testing
In addition to the more visible reactions described above, there are other signs that might indicate that your
child has an allergy, most likely an environmental one. These include ongoing nasal congestion, frequent ear
infections, or frequent colds that seem to last a long time. You should bring these to the pediatrician’s
attention, because if your child continuously breathes through his/her mouth in the first few years, this can
change the way the soft bones of their face grows and the way his/her teeth come in, causing dental and
other problems in the future. Doctors can test children for allergies. Although they can be done in infants,
these tests are most reliable in children over two years old. The test for environmental and food allergies is a
skin test that is not too painful and will not harm your child.
Preventing an Allergic Reaction
The best way to manage your child’s allergies is to do your best to make sure he/she does not come into
contact with the things the child is allergic to. If your child has food allergies, make sure you read the
ingredients of the foods your child eats because there may be traces of the things their allergic to. Teach
your child to remember to tell others at school, at childcare, or at a friend or family member’s house that
he/she is allergic to a certain food. Also communicate this information yourself to your child’s school
because many schools will make accommodations if your child has a severe allergic reaction to something
like nuts by making the classroom ‘nut-free’ and asking that no one bring anything containing nuts. If your
child has airborne allergies that are triggered by things in the air, the most important thing you can do is to
keep your house clean and dry. Keep pets out of your child’s room, and keep windows closed as much as
possible and use air conditioning. If you do have air conditioners, you should change their filters at least
once a year. You can also get an air purifier for your home. Avoid having real plants in your home, including
Christmas trees. You can also get special pillow and mattress covers if your child is allergic to dust. Avoid
bedding made with down. Change your child’s clothes after he/she has been outside. If your child has an
environmental allergy, sometimes allergy shots can be given to minimize the symptoms and keep the allergy
While there is no cure for allergies, they are treatable when a flare-up occurs. For food and insect allergies,
reactions might be treatable with an injectable dose of epinephrine (also known as an epi-pen because it
looks like a pen), a drug that makes an allergic reaction go away. You can carry this around with you, and if
your child is old enough, he/she can even give it to themselves. Make sure your child’s teacher and/or
school nurse know about this and are able to access it if necessary. If your child has environmental allergies,
the most common reaction is difficulty breathing. His/her doctor might prescribe an inhaler that they can use
if he/she feels this or if you or others sense that the child is having trouble. With any kind of allergic
reaction, even if you can treat it with an epi-pen or inhaler, you should still take your child to the doctor as
soon as possible to make sure he/she is ok. You, your child, your child’s school, childcare, and any other
activity or place the child visits should know what he/she is allergic to, what signs indicate their having an
allergic reaction, and how to respond.