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Allergies Affect Children And Parents

Allergies can make children feel achy, wheezy, anxious, irritable, and can even interfere with concentration and the ability to learn. Allergies cause children to miss 2 million school days a year and account for as many as 1 out of every 3 pediatric healthcare visits by children. Allergies may be associated with more serious diseases such as asthma. Parents are distracted on the job or miss work to take care of their children with allergies. Though allergies can't be cured, they can be carefully controlled. That's why parents and children need to BE ALLERGY ALERT! Together they can reduce allergy triggers to minimize symptoms, get prompt medical care for allergies, and follow the recommended treatment plan.

The First Step: Reduce Allergy Triggers

Dust, dust mites, animal dander, pollen, smoke, chemical fumes, mold, and mildew are the common allergy triggers. Children are exposed to these and other irritants such as chalk dust, rubber cement or glue, finger paints, markers, and similar craft or school supplies. Allergy triggers cause sneezing, wheezing, dry cough, and other discomforts. Children with allergies have far fewer symptoms when the allergy triggers in their surroundings are removed. Follow these suggestions to reduce the allergy triggers that affect your children.

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Make your home a NO SMOKING zone.
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Remove carpeting from the bedroom and play areas. Replace with linoleum, tile flooring, or acrylic-finished wood flooring.
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Damp mop floors, woodwork, and all washable surfaces often with an unscented cleaner.
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If you have carpeting that cannot be removed, vacuum it frequently. Consider buying a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) vacuum cleaner or HEPA bags for your vacuum. They are available in medical supply stores or catalogs.
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Buy cribs and other children's furniture that have simple lines and washable surfaces. Damp wipe often to keep clean and remove allergy triggers.
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Replace feather pillows and natural fiber blankets and bedding with non-allergenic ones made from synthetic, washable fibers.
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Put zippered dust-proof covers on pillows, mattresses, and box springs.
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Wash sheets, pillow cases, comforters, and other bedding in hot water every week. Use unscented, allergen-free detergent.
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Display collections, trophies, and other dust collectors in cabinets.
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Keep the air-conditioning and heating systems in excellent condition. Clean or replace air filters often. Consider replacing the filters with HEPA filters that are available in medical supply stores or catalogs.
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Clean humidifiers, nebulizers, and any other allergy treatment equipment often to prevent mold, mildew, or other allergy triggers.
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Keep children away from cleaning or personal care products that create dust or fumes. Parents should avoid hair spray, perfume, shaving lotion, hand or body creams, and cosmetics that have strong scents. Markers, adhesives, craft supplies, paint, and lawn care products are also major allergy triggers.
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Put children's clothes in a closet outside the bedroom, if possible. Clothes carry pollen, dust, and other allergy triggers from outside into the house.
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Use the closet in the bedroom to store toys and other non-clothing items.
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Clean closets thoroughly; wipe walls and floors to remove dust and dust mites.
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Keep closets closed.

Pay special attention to toys

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Buy washable stuffed toys and dolls. Wash them weekly in hot water with unscented, non-allergenic detergent.
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Put dolls and small toys that are not washable in plastic bags in the freezer overnight to kill dust mites. Also freeze lunch boxes, knapsacks, and other non-washable items occasionally to remove allergy triggers.
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Put toys in a toy box at the end of the day so they don't collect dust.
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Damp-wipe bikes and other large toys every week with an unscented cleaner.
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Replace games and sports or camping gear that have mold or mildew from dampness.
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Buy washable jackets, bookbags, and knapsacks. Wash every week in hot water with unscented, non-allergenic detergent.

Be cautious about pets

Dogs, cats, birds, and similar pets produce dander which is a major allergy trigger.

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It's best not to have a pet in the house when a child has allergies. If possible, find a new home for a pet that causes severe allergic reactions. Otherwise, only allow the pet in certain rooms; ideally, keep the pet outside.
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Never let a pet on furniture or in the bedroom of a child with allergies.
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Make advance plans if children with allergies are visiting homes where there are pets. Explain why it's important for the pet to be kept in a closed room while the child is visiting. Tell the pet owners not to encourage your child to play with the animal.

Other hints for preventing allergy problems

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Teach children the clean-hands habit. They should wash their hands with warm, soapy water often during the day, particularly after playing and definitely after being near a pet.
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Children should take their own pillow and stuffed toys when staying overnight away from home.
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Exercise is excellent but encourage children with allergies to take a rest break, especially if they start to cough or wheeze.
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Follow the doctor's advice about warm-up exercises before strenuous activity.
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Encourage children to play indoors when the pollen level in the air is high.
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Allergy symptoms can get worse when a child goes from a heated home to cold outside air.  A scarf or muffler over the mouth and nose can prevent cold air from causing severe coughing or discomfort.

Ask Your Pediatrician About Allergies

Today more children have allergies than ever before. Fortunately, excellent medical attention is available to help reduce allergy attacks and discomfort.

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Explain all the allergy symptoms you recognize in your child.
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Describe what you are doing to remove or reduce allergy triggers at home.
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Ask which medications can relieve your child's symptoms without interfering with school or sports activities.
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Be sure you understand how often and why the medications should be used.

Follow An Allergy Treatment Plan Precisely

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If your child is old enough to understand, explain the basic steps in the allergy treatment plan recommended by the pediatrician.
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Make a chart to show the times that, medication might be needed. For example, if allergy symptoms are very severe on high-pollen days.
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Fill prescriptions promptly so you have medications available when they are needed. If you're going away on vacation pack the allergy medication as well as a spare copy of the prescription, in case of an emergency.
 
For more information:
 
Allergy and Asthma Network/Mothers of Asthmatics, Inc.
(703) 385-4403
 
Allergy Information Referral Line
American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
(800) 842-7777
 

The BE ALLERGY ALERT! Program

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