Healthy & Safe: Your family's well-being

Gesundheit!: Easing the misery of allergies

Ah, spring. The birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, and there's pollen everywhere! It's not surprising that some parents view the springtime appearance of crocuses and daffodils as a mixed blessing. The reason? Allergies.

Allergic disorders rank first among chronic childhood diseases. While doctors now know that any child can acquire an allergy, kids with a family history of allergies are at highest risk. Even so, there are other factors?such as weather and air pollution?that can bring on allergies.

How can you tell if your child is suffering from allergies? Look for these symptoms:

Chronic nasal congestion.

Offending pollens almost always agitate the nose, to the point that your child's breathing can be obstructed. In a more serious scenario, asthma develops.

Ear infections.

Allergic reactions can lead to infections that might cause a decrease in hearing capability. This is especially harmful for young children who are in the crucial years of language development.

Behavioral changes.

Be on the alert for allergies as a culprit if your child exhibits out-of-character crankiness when pollen counts are high.

Enough of the bad news. If your child does suffer from allergies, there is hope and help. "The key," explains Mary Anne Klein of Allergy Clean Environments, a public service organization dedicated to ridding homes of unnecessary allergens, "is to decrease one's exposure to allergens. This is an ongoing job that takes place in stages." In other words, wait! Don't sell the cat or spend hundreds on exotic treatments. Take these simple steps first. You might find that while those miserable allergic symptoms don't disappear, they are at least under control.

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