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Baby's Spring allergies — What you need to know

Sure, spring brings lot of warm weather and fun in the air — but it also brings allergens.

After a long, long winter I am anxious for warm weather so I can move my brood outside. But although I'm excited to finally enjoy some outdoor fun, I'm not particularly looking forward to dealing with that other springtime accompaniment — allergies.

Honestly, I don't ever remember dealing with allergies as a child. I was always outside and not even a runny nose could slow me down. But somewhere along the line, I seem to have developed allergies and being in the great outdoors means a pocketful of tissue and a constant companion in my sniffy nose.

Spring allergies in babies

"Children are ... more sensitive to allergens in the air."

Unfortunately, it would seem my children have also inherited my affinity for the sniffles, because being outside is a trigger for them as well. But because I'm determined to keep us active outside, I also want to get ahead on how to handle springtime allergies in my kids.

Because I obviously have allergies, it's not surprising that one or more of my children would have allergies. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, if one or both parents have an allergy, there is a 1 in 3 chance for each child to inherit the allergy. About 20 percent of all Americans have allergies, but children are actually more sensitive to allergens in the air.

How to spot an allergy

First of all, how do you tell if your baby has an actual allergy and not a virus or an infection? Allergies most commonly appear with symptoms all at once, such as congestion, a thin, clear, mucus and watery eyes and can last for weeks and months versus a cold, which lasts for 7 to 10 days and the mucus can be yellow or green.

In babies, it can also be hard to tell if allergies are present, because teething can cause a lot of the same symptoms. Other symptoms that distinguish allergies include

  • Hives
  • Runny nose
  • Itching or swelling of lips, tongue or throat

What you can do

"It's not unheard of for babies to outgrow allergies."

You can take your baby to be tested for common allergens or suspected triggers with a simple skin prick test. Basically, the doctor introduces an allergen through the skin and if a red bump appears, your baby is allergic to that particular irritant.

However, it's not unheard of for babies to outgrow allergies, so it might be helpful to delay testing or have your child re-tested in a few years.

As far as medication options go, as with anything, for babies under the age of 1, choices are limited. Once my babies were about 1 year old, their pediatrician approved them to take half doses of over-the-counter antihistamines to dry their nasal secretions. With infants and small children, the constant drainage of allergies combined with the fact that they can't clear their secretions on their own often leads to ear and/or eye infections, something I've seen far too often in my own children. Adding an antihistamine may help dry the secretions and prevent infections.

You can also take other steps to help reduce allergies in your baby by limiting their exposure to pets in the home, vacuuming frequently and breastfeeding for as long as possible, as it has been shown to help reduce allergies in children in some cases.

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