Before embarking on extensive and expensive tests and allergy prevention measures, go though this checklist:
- Does your child have many of the above 12 allergy symptoms?
- Wait and see if symptoms persist longer than three months - this is
perhaps the single most important indicator of allergies. Virtually all
children go through normal coughs and colds. Some children may have several
back-to-back colds during winter that make it seem like they may have allergies.
However, before you delve into an all-out effort to prevent your child's
allergies, we suggest you allow at least two or even three months to pass. Mild
allergies or a string of colds will usually work themselves out within this time
period, thus making allergy interventions unnecessary. You may alleviate your
child's symptoms with over-the-counter allergy medications during this time if
necessary. One exception to this three-month rule is for young infants where
formula allergy or an allergy to food in mom's breastmilk should be investigated
after perhaps one month of symptoms.
- How much do the symptoms bother your child - because investigating
and preventing allergies can often be very time-consuming and costly, we suggest
you consider the following questions to determine if allergies are worth
- Are the symptoms significantly interfering with sleep?
- Do the symptoms significantly interfere with normal day-to-day activities?
- Do the symptoms significantly decrease quality of life?
- Do the symptoms slow your child down or interfere with sports or active
Decide how significantly the symptoms are interfering with your child's well
being. If your child coughs several times during the night, but in general gets
a good night's rest, you may want to leave well enough alone. If the runny or
stuffy nose comes and goes and requires an occasional nose-blow, but does not
bother your child or slow her down, you may just decide to wait and see if she
outgrows it. Very mild, non-bothersome allergies don't have to be extensively
- Continuous versus intermittent symptoms – allergies usually cause
continuous daily, or nightly, symptoms, at least during certain seasons of the
year. Your child will often experience symptoms five or more days a week for
several months straight. Colds, on the other hand, will usually hit your child
hard for a few days, and then slowly improve over the next week or two, followed
by a period of complete wellness. If your child is experiencing two or more
symptom-free weeks in between attacks, then it is more likely to be recurrent
colds instead of allergies.
- Cold and flu season – children are much more likely to catch frequent
colds during the late fall and winter months. If your child has been healthy
all year, but seems to be sick all winter long, it may simply be the constant
exposure to cold germs at school or childcare (although allergies could also
play a role during wintertime). See if the symptoms continue into the spring,
then consider allergies.
- Family history – studies have shown that if one parent suffers from
nasal or skin allergies, your child has a 25% chance of having allergies as
well. If both parents have allergies, your child may have up to a 75% chance.
Therefore, if one or both parents have allergies, be more alert to the
possibility of allergies. If you have lucky genes, and allergies are virtually
non-existent in your family, you can be slower to worry about allergies.