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Outdoor Allergies in Kids

If your child often is coughing, wheezing, or has what seems like a common cold during the warm months, outdoor allergies may be to blame.

Causes of outdoor allergies 

Outdoor allergy triggers in children include:

  • Pollen. Trees tend to release their pollen in the spring. Grasses generally follow, in early summer, and weeds get going in late summer. In the North, growing season starts later in the year, leading to a later start for pollen-related allergies.
  • Mold spores. These tend to float in the air in the summer, though in warmer areas mold spores may stay in the air year-round.

Symptoms of outdoor allergies

Outdoor allergies can cause

Allergic rhinitis. Better known as "hay fever." Symptoms of allergic rhinitis include:

  • Runny nose
  • Itchy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Congestion
  • Red, itchy eyes

Asthma. Asthma is a common condition in children. During an asthma attack, the lung passages narrow and get clogged with mucus.  This can cause:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath, especially during exercise

Identifying outdoor allergies

Other conditions that make it hard to breathe can be confused with outdoor allergies. Here’s how to tell the difference:

  • Allergies to indoor triggers -- including dust mites, cockroaches, and dogs and cats -- tend to cause symptoms year-round. Symptoms of outdoor allergies usually come at the same time during warm months, year after year. Also, if your child’s symptoms get better on extended trips away, indoor allergies in your home may be the cause.
  • The common cold can also cause many hay fever-like symptoms. However, with hay fever, kids' noses and mouths often itch, which is unusual during a cold.

Preventing outdoor allergies

Help your children’s outdoor allergy discomfort by:

  • Tracking pollen counts. Some weather stations and web sites report the levels of airborne pollen in specific areas. Levels are often higher on warm, windy, dry days. If pollen is high in your area, keep your child indoors when possible.
  • Cool your home and car with an air conditioner instead of opening the windows.
  • In the fall, keep your child from playing in dead leaves which often harbor mold.
  • Use a clothes dryer instead of hanging laundry outside.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on October 31, 2012

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