Common Indoor Allergies in Children
Indoor allergens like mold, dust mites and pet dander are common causes of allergy symptoms in children year-round. If you’re having trouble figuring out the root cause of your child’s symptoms, an allergist can help identify what allergens trigger flare-ups and the best method of treatment.
What is mold?
Mold is a type of fungi that reproduces by releasing tiny spores into the air. Common types of fungi include mildew, yeast and mold. Mold fungi thrive in damp, warm and dark areas and may be found both indoors and outdoors. Mold might be present in bathrooms, kitchens and basements. When your child inhales these tiny spores, the body will develop an allergic reaction – this is a natural response to inhaling foreign particles.
Reactions to mold exposure vary. Young children are particularly vulnerable to mold exposure, as their immune systems have not yet fully developed. Mold spores can also trigger more chronic attacks in children who have asthma.
What are the symptoms of mold allergy?
It’s easy to mistake mold allergy symptoms in your child for hay fever or a cold. The most common symptoms of mold allergy include:
- Respiratory problems such as coughing and chest tightness
- Sneezing and/or stuffy nose
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Itchy skin and rashes
- Recurring colds
- Flu-like symptoms such as fatigue
Where does mold grow?
Mold loves warm, damp environments. Places you may find mold inside and outside your home include:
- Moist, shady areas
- Rotting leaves and logs
- Compost piles and cut grass
- Damp basements
- Food storage areas
- Air conditioners and humidifiers
How to manage mold in your home
To prevent household mold, keep basements, bathrooms and kitchen areas well ventilated. Repairing leaky pipes and removing puddles of water are helpful in preventing mold growth.
What is a dust mite allergy?
Dust mites are tiny organisms, too small to see without a microscope, that live in house dust. They are very common and are often to blame as a trigger for many year-round allergies and asthma. They thrive in warm, humid environments and can be found throughout homes and schools.
It’s not uncommon to find dust mites and their waste among items such as:
- Mattress and pillows
- Stuffed toys
- Fabric-covered items such as furniture
Controlling dust mites: Tips for parents
Sometimes medications are helpful in managing your child’s allergy symptoms, but there are steps you can take to reduce the presence of dust mites in your home:
- Use zippered dust-proof covers on your mattresses and box springs.
- Avoid feather, foam and down pillows, and keep them in dust-proof covers.
- Regularly wash all bedding in hot water. Cold water will not kill dust mite critters! Stuffed animals can be put in the freezer to kill off dust mites.
- Try to avoid wall-to-wall carpeting, but if you can’t, vacuum regularly.
- Reduce or eliminate humidifier use.
- Most importantly, keep the humidity in your home at 50% or less. In some areas, you may need to use a dehumidifier to regulate humidity.
What are pet allergies?
Pet allergies are caused by pet dander, which contains proteins that can aggravate asthma symptoms and allergies in young children. Children who are allergic to house pets may experience a runny nose and itchy, watery eyes during and after contact with a dog, cat or other animal. If your family has a pet at home, these symptoms can sometimes become chronic.
What are the symptoms of pet allergies?
- Runny nose
- Itchy watery eyes
- People with asthma may experience wheezing and difficulty breathing
Treatments for pet allergies:
- Antihistamines are typically used after you or your child has experienced an allergic reaction as they provide short-term relief for symptoms. Common examples of antihistamines include Diphenhydramine, Cetirizine, Fexofenadine, and Loratadine.
- Allergy shots have been proven most effective as a long-term treatment.
Other ways you can reduce pet dander allergy symptoms:
- Keep pets out of bedrooms or other areas where your child spends most of their time
- Get rid of carpeting and rugs if possible
- Vacuum regularly using a double or micro-filter bag
- Try not to let your child hug and kiss your pets
- Wash hands after touching a house pet
Talk to your child’s primary care provider if you suspect they are suffering from indoor allergies. They may recommend a visit with a pediatric allergist to determine the cause of your child’s symptoms.
Reviewed by Catherine Bonita, MD, FAAP