Lighten Your Child's Allergy Load

Sweep away triggers to reduce your child's allergy symptoms.

Medically Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on October 26, 2012
3 min read

Coughing, sneezing, itching, wheezing -- kids with allergies face a lot of miserable symptoms. And, your child's triggers may change over time. Sudden weather changes also can make symptoms flare.

Learn what triggers your child's allergies now, at least, and get serious about avoiding them. These tips can help you improve your child's breathing and quality of life.

Learn Your Child's Allergy Triggers

Write down what causes your child's symptoms:

  • Dust
  • Pollen
  • Mold, mildew
  • Tobacco, wood smoke
  • Pet dander
  • Chemical fumes, aerosols, fresh paint, perfume, scented products
  • Weather fronts, wind, cold, or humid air
  • Cockroach droppings

Wipe Out Dust Mites

Dust mites thrive on house dust -- and their droppings are the most common trigger of year-round allergies. If your child has symptoms:

  • Keep his bedroom bare: no rugs, carpets, or heavy drapes. Trade carpets for vinyl or hardwoods. Change curtains for shades or easy-wipe shutters.
  • Move most books, toys, stuffed animals to another room.
  • Use air-conditioning to dehumidify the air and filter out pollen and allergen-producing materials.
  • Professionally clean household air ducts.
  • Dust at least once a week, more if possible.
  • Vacuum using bags that don't allow dust to escape or a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter.
  • Get rid of fuzzy or woolen blankets and down comforters.
  • Wash your child's bed linens in hot water at least weekly and dry bedding in a hot dryer.
  • Keep your house cool (less than 70 F) and dry (less than 50% relative humidity). This reduces dust mites, as well as cockroaches and mold.
  • Use cheesecloth as a filter over incoming air vents, especially in your child's bedroom.
  • If possible, don't keep your child's clothing in his bedroom.

Avoid High Pollen Periods

If your child is allergic to pollen:

  • Learn when her outdoor trigger (ragweed or other weeds, grasses, or trees) is in bloom. Her doctor or a web site will have pollen counts.
  • Keep her indoors when pollen is high and close the windows to keep allergens out.

You may also want to:

  • Run a HEPA room air cleaner in her bedroom.
  • Limit cats and dogs from going in and out, even if your child is not allergic to them. Pet fur collects pollen and other allergens.

Stop Mold Stop in Its Tracks

Mold is a common childhood allergen. Outside, you may find it in:

  • Soil
  • Rotting wood
  • Wet leaves or mulch
  • Vinyl lawn furniture and cushions
  • Patios
  • Boat canvas

Inside, molds may be in:

  • Bathrooms
  • Bedrooms
  • Refrigerators and kitchens
  • Garages and attics
  • Garbage containers
  • Carpets
  • Damp wallpaper
  • Rotting wood floors
  • Upholstered furniture

To prevent mold:

  • Keep kitchen and bathroom surfaces dry.
  • Use diluted (5%) bleach and a little detergent to remove mildew on washable surfaces in musty areas.
  • Use an air conditioner or dehumidifier to keep humidity low.
  • Fix leaky pipes and wall cracks to keep water from leaking into your home.
  • Get rid of indoor plants and other mildew sources.
  • Avoid using plug-in air fresheners.

Make Your House a Nonsmoking Area

Smoke can increase allergen deposits in your child's nose and lungs. Ban:

  • Smoking
  • Fires in wood stoves or fireplaces
  • Candles
  • Incense

What About Pets and Allergies?

  • Pet hair or fur can carry dust, pollen, mold, or other allergens into your home. Know that:
  • Your child may be allergic to a protein found in the animal's saliva, dander, or urine.
  • If your pet sheds, allergens can be carried through the air and land in your child's eyes and nose.
  • Pet allergies can also cause hives and itching.

Some studies show that washing your pet weekly may reduce the allergens released during shedding. If possible, keeping your pet outside is probably the best idea.


If your child still wakes up sneezy, wheezy, and stuffy, look into testing for less-obvious triggers like:

  • Dust mites
  • Mold
  • Cockroaches


If symptoms don't go away, talk to her doctor about:

  • Over-the-counter non-drowsy antihistamines
  • Over-the-counter steroid nasal sprays
  • Saline nasal rinses
  • Prescription nasal sprays