8 Ways to Help Your Child Avoid Allergy Triggers
No parent likes to see their child deal with respiratory allergy symptoms like a runny nose, itchy eyes, or sneezing. But the scenario is all too common: Ten percent of children have respiratory allergies, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI). If your child is one of them, you can take action to avoid his or her exposure to allergy triggers, like pollen, dust, or animal dander. First, make sure that you determine what your child is truly allergic to. A substance that causes an allergic reaction is known as an allergen. Try these allergen-avoidance tips to keep your youngster free of allergy symptoms.
- Move Playdates Indoors When Necessary
If your child has outdoor allergies, keep a close eye on the pollen and mold counts in your area. When counts are high, Dr. Chiu suggests opting for indoor fun to avoid exposure to those allergens. If your child must be outside, try to avoid peak pollen hours, the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) recommends. Outfit your child with sunglasses and a brimmed hat to reduce pollen in the eyes and hair, the ACAAI says. If your pets spend a lot of time outdoors, limit your child’s contact with them — they may be tracking pollen, too. During ragweed pollen season in the late summer and early fall, pollen levels are highest in the morning. During grass pollen season the spring and summer, pollen counts are highest in the evening.
- Dust Mite-Proof Your Child’s Bed
You may already know that bedding is a favorite hiding place of dust mites. If your child has dust mite allergies, keeping bedding as clean as possible can help keep allergy symptoms at bay, the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) says. Wash all of your child’s bedding each week in hot water — at least 130 degrees F — to kill off the dust mite allergen, Chiu says. Also use an airtight mattress cover that’s made of an allergen-proof material, the AAAAI suggests. Allergen-proof covers are also available for non-washable pillows and comforters.
- Keep Stuffed Animals Clean
Though cute and cuddly, stuffed animals and other plush toys can also harbor dust mites. So that your little one can snuggle without sneezing, kill the dust mites in one of two ways: with heat or with cold. You can wash stuffed animals in hot water and dry them in a hot dryer just as you do the bedding, or you can put them in the freezer overnight, Chiu suggests. In general, it also helps to keep your child’s room as dust-free as possible.
- Skip Upholstery in the Bedroom
Carpeting and heavy drapes are another favorite hiding place for dust mites, as well as animal dander. Getting rid of this décor can be helpful if your child has dust mite or pet allergies, says Chiu. Instead, opt for hardwood or similar flooring. If you want to use throw rugs, make sure they are washable, the AAAAI recommends. You can also run a dehumidifier to reduce moisture in the air and minimize the growth of dust mites in your child’s bedroom. Be sure to empty and clean a dehumidifier often.
- Opt for Air Conditioning
Another way to zap dust mite allergies, as well as mold allergies: Even when the temps aren’t overly hot, consider shutting the windows and running the air conditioning at home and in your car. “It keeps pollen out and also dehumidifies the air,” Chiu says. The best bet is using a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter as part of your air conditioning system — this will help to purge your entire home of mold, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) says.
- Keep Pets Out of the Bedroom
If you have a pet but your child is allergic to animal dander, set a firm rule that the bedroom is off-limits for your furry friend. “This would decrease the exposure to animal dander,” Chiu says. It’s not a total fix as there is still exposure in other areas of the house, but it’s still helpful, she adds. As much as you can, keep pets from licking your child—there are allergens in the animal’s saliva as well as urine and dander, the AAAAI notes. If it’s tough to juggle having a pet with your child’s animal dander allergy, talk to your child’s allergist about potential allergy-management strategies that may help.
- Clean Up After Outside Playtime
After enjoying time in the great outdoors, ditch the pollen as you and the kids come back into the house. “Pollen can stick to clothes,” Chiu says. Remove your child’s clothes and have her take a bath or shower to get rid of any pollen that’s in her hair or on her skin. And put the clothes immediately into the washing machine to prevent pollen from spreading through your home. It’s always a good idea to have your child shower and shampoo before bed to avoid getting pollen on the sheets and pillows, the AAFA advises.
- Dry Clothes Indoors
Letting clothes, linens, and other laundry air dry on an outdoor clothesline may seem pleasant, but not when your child has allergies. Drying clothes outdoors attracts pollen, Chiu explains, and that pollen can released when you put on the dry clothes. Instead, wash your laundry at the appropriate temperature setting and move it right into the clothes dryer at the warmest setting possible without shrinking. If you have line-dry items, hang them up indoors to dry.