By:  Karen Sullen

Achoo!  Achoo!  Here we go again!  Signaling the beginning of allergy season, sneezing, coughing and wheezing are all-too-familiar sounds, accompanied by red, irritated, itchy eyes and scratchy throats.  Depending on the child, these symptoms can be triggered by a number of things, and they don't have to surface just during the changing of the season.  Many allergy sufferers have to deal with these symptoms all year long.  If your child suffers from air-born allergies, there are plenty of medications that can help relieve the symptoms.  But many parents may not realize that there are plenty common-sense, practical ways to keep kids healthy and reduce the effects of air-born allergens found in baby toys, bedding, and other things around the house.  

Whether your allergies are seasonal (caused by outdoor agents like pollen, grass, etc.) or perennial and occur throughout the year (caused by indoor agents like pets, dust mites, secondhand smoke, mold, etc.), use these tips to find relief.

•    Get rid of dust traps that create a place for dust mites to collect, including heavy drapes, upholstered furniture, etc.   Try leather, vinyl or wood furniture instead.
•    Cover all mattresses, pillows and box springs with an airtight, allergy-proof plastic.  Wash the pillow case and other bedding in hot water (at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit) each week.
•    Wash all bedding and stuffed animals in hot water every 7-14 days.  Consider purchasing "clean" stuffed animals that are said to be anti-mite, anti-mold and anti-microbe because of the silver nanotechnology infused in the filler foam.
•    Mold loves damp, dark places.  Keep your child away from damp basements and water-damaged areas of your home, especially under carpets. 
•    Since dust mites and mold increase in high humidity, keep indoor humidity low.
•    Because carpets can collect allergens, hardwood, vinyl or tile flooring is recommended.
•    Vacuum when your child will not be in the room for about 20 minutes, since many allergy agents are small enough to go back out of the vacuum cleaner bag.  Or get a vacuum that specifically traps dust mites.
•    If your child spends time on the floor, consider letting him or her sit or lie on a plastic mat or washable throw rug, and then wash it weekly in hot water. 
•    Regularly replace the filters in the air conditioner or heating system.
•    It's best not to have pets in a home where a child suffers from allergies.  But if you must have a pet in the house, keep it out of your child's bedroom and wash your pet each week to remove surface allergens. Keep your pet off of upholstered furniture and carpeted areas of your home, which can hold pet dander.
•    Cover air vents with filters.
•    Avoid using of ceiling fans.  Clean them often, as they collect dust mites.
•    Keep windows closed at home to avoid exposure to pollens and in the car when driving.
•    Limit outdoor activities when pollen counts are highest (early morning for springtime tree pollens, afternoon and early evening for summer grasses, and in the middle of the day for ragweed in the fall) 
•    Consider using a HEPA filter to control airborne allergens.
•    Quit smoking to eliminate your child’s exposure to secondhand smoke.

Be aware that setting your water heater at 130 degrees Fahrenheit is recommended to kill dust mites, but it is also higher than the 120 degrees that is recommended to prevent scalding.  Knowing this, you should increase the cold water at onset when bathing, washing dishes, etc.  If symptoms persist despite the use of these tips and over-the-counter medications, an allergy shot may be needed to treat children with hard-to-control asthma and allergies.