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Treating Allergies in Children

Allergies in Children - Avoidance and Prevention


Updated June 26, 2014

Treating Allergies in Children

To help decrease the amount of dust mites encase mattresses, boxsprings, and pillows with mite-proof covers. Further methods consist of washing bedding once a week in hot water, and dusting with a wet cloth once a week.

Updated June 26, 2014
The approach to treating a child’s allergies is similar to that of an adult, with some important differences regarding medication choices and dosing. In general, there are 3 ways to treat a child’s allergies:
    1. Avoidance of the allergic triggers.
    2. Use of medications.
    3. Allergy shots (Immunotherapy).

Avoidance of Allergic Triggers

Avoidance of the causes of a child’s allergy symptoms can often be the best way to prevent symptoms. There is essentially no cost, no medication side effects, and is essentially a curative approach to the child’s allergic problem. Examples of at least partially avoidable allergens include pet dander and dust mites.

However, avoidance of allergens is often difficult and not always possible. For example, plant pollens and mold spores are part of the outside air, and short of keeping a child indoors all of the time, it is impossible to avoid exposure to these allergens.

Once allergy testing reveals the presence of allergic antibodies to various triggers, an allergist may recommend avoidance of these triggers.

Animal allergies. Allergy to animal dander, hair, saliva and urine is a common problem with household pets. Typical pets causing allergies include dogs, cats and birds; although allergies to other pets, such as rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats, mice, horses and ferrets, is becoming more common. Allergy to reptiles and amphibians is possible, but less common since these animals do not produce large amounts of airborne dander.

Indoor pets typically cause the most problems, since the hair and dander is present in large amounts in the air, on furniture and on the carpeting. A pet that is isolated to one area of the house may still cause significant problems for an allergic child because the dander can be airborne and move to any part of the home through the ventilation system.

The best avoidance measure for a pet allergy is removing the animal from the house completely. However, many families are emotionally attached to the pet and are unwilling to do so. In this case, there are some actions that are recommended to at least cut down on the amount of allergen present in the home:

    1. Remove the pet from the child’s bedroom, and keep the animal off of furniture and outdoors as much as possible.
    2. Have someone other than the child bathe the pet at least once per week, especially if the animal is large (dogs and cats).
    3. Consider removal of carpeting from the child’s bedroom and other common areas of the home.
    4. Vacuum the carpet and floors frequently; ensuring the vacuum cleaner is equipped with a HEPA filter.
    5. Consider purchasing a HEPA filter for the child’s bedroom.
    6. If the pet is ultimately removed from the home completely, it is important to steam clean all carpeting and upholstered furniture, and launder draperies and bedding. Animal hair and dander can persist for months even after the pet is gone, resulting in allergy symptoms in the child as if the pet is still present.

Dust mites and cockroaches. These creatures, present in many homes, are a major cause of year-round indoor allergies. Prevention of exposure to these allergens is usually at least partially successful.

Dust mites are microscopic creatures that live in our bedding, pillows and mattresses and eat human dead skin flakes and synthetic materials. Humans, especially children, can be allergic to dust mite droppings. Luckily, dust mite allergens are typically not airborne; these allergens are heavy and fall to the bed, floor and furniture.

Children with dust mite allergies notice late night and early morning allergy symptoms, after inhaling the dust mite particles over several hours. Since dust mites live all-year long, the allergy is not typically a seasonal problem.

Avoidance of dust mites includes frequent washing of bedding, in hot water (preferable 130 º F) every week. Other bedding materials such as blankets and comforters should be washed once to twice a month. Decorative pillows and stuffed animals also harbor dust mites, and should be washed frequently or removed from the bed. If the pillow or stuffed toy cannot be submersed in water, these should be placed in the freezer for 24-48 hours, and then hand-washed in soapy water (it is not the cold that kills the dust mites, but the dryness of the freezer).

Encasing pillows and mattresses in dust mite allergen covers is another important avoidance measure to take. These covers, available at many retailers that offer bedding materials, are impermeable to dust mites, and trap the mites in the pillow and mattress away from the child. The covers are placed over the pillow and mattress, and the bedding is placed other the covers.

Cockroaches are typically present in the kitchen, bathrooms and garage, where food and water sources are available. Removing garbage from the kitchen, keeping pet food in sealed containers, frequent cleaning of counters and kitchen floors, and using bait traps (such as Combat®) in cabinets and behind refrigerators can be helpful in eliminating cockroaches.

Dust mites and cockroaches both thrive in humid climates, and efforts to de-humidify (with the use of a de-humidifier and fixing water leaks), as well as following the recommendations outlined above, can be successful in reducing the amounts of these allergens in the home.

Indoor molds. Usually the biggest source of indoor mold exposure is the outdoor air. However, in humid environments, such as kitchens, bathrooms and basements, mold may grow and produce large amounts of indoor spores, leading to an increase in a child’s allergy symptoms.

If mold or mildew is seen in the home, a diluted (5 to 10%) bleach solution can be used to clean and kill the mold. Ensure water leaks are fixed, and consider measures to increase ventilation in the moist areas, or use a de-humidifier to decrease mold growth. In areas of water damage or substantial mold growth, removal of the contaminated materials may be required.


    1. Dykewicz MS, Fineman S, editors. Diagnosis and Management of Rhinitis: Complete Guidelines of the Joint Task Force on Practice Parameters in Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for informational purposes only, please see your doctor.

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