"A lot of parents don't realize," says Neeta Ogden, MD, an allergist in Closter, N.J. "They assume that the constant runny nose and sneezing are just what happens when a child's exposed to day care germs."
While allergies in kids are underdiagnosed, the good news is that treatment really works. With medical care, your baby or toddler will not only feel better, but you could head off complications in the future, says Kenneth Bock, MD, pediatric neurotoxicologist and codirector of the Rhinebeck Health Center in Rhinebeck, N.Y.
Nasal Allergies in Kids
While allergies are the most common chronic disease in children, some pediatricians won't diagnose nasal allergies in kids until they're age 4 or 5, Ogden says. The conventional wisdom is that it takes a number of years before a true allergy can develop.
However, the waiting rooms of pediatric allergists tell a different story. "I see a lot of kids who are age 3 with signs of nasal allergies," says Ogden. "I see some who are as young as 2."
The symptoms of nasal allergies in kids include:
- Runny and itchy nose
- Frequent sneezing
- Chronic cough
- Red, watery eyes
- Allergic shiners -- dark rings under the eyes
- Mouth breathing, especially while asleep
- Exhaustion, because of poor sleep quality
- Symptoms that last longer than a couple of weeks
The problems with nasal allergies in kids go well beyond a runny nose. The constant congestion can lead to frequent sinus infections and ear infections. "Some kids have so many ear infections that they can't hear well," says Ogden. "That can lead to developmental delays."
Nasal allergies in kids are often linked with two other allergic conditions: eczema and asthma. In many kids, it starts with itchy patches of eczema as infants, progresses to nasal allergies as preschoolers, and then develops into asthma later.