EXCLUSIVE: Winter allergies among kids: How to cope and EVERYTHING to know

Winter not only comes with sweaters and hot drinks but also lots of coughing sneezing and common allergies. Here's all you need to know about it.
EXCLUSIVE: Winter allergies among kids: How to cope and EVERYTHING to know
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While winter is a season we all look forward to after the scorching summer heat and though most of them do not associate winter with allergies/ ailments the bad news is that allergies persist during these cold months and thus parents need to be cautious in following a proper guideline to keep these allergies at bay.

What are allergies?
Broadly speaking allergies are simply overreactions of the child’s immune system to an external substance which the child would have either inhaled, touched or eaten. The substance that causes an allergy is termed as an allergen. The immune system of the baby reacts to a foreign substance by releasing protective proteins in the form of antibodies. In turn, the antibodies then produce chemical substance histamine which leads to inflammation/swelling thereby triggering allergic symptoms.

Winter allergy among toddlers/children
Fortunately, this season brings an end to seasonal pollen allergy as there is no pollination around this time. However, this season marks the occurrence of winter allergy as due to cold season children tend to spend a lot of time staying indoors and then there may be several potential elements contributing towards various allergy triggers. There could be several factors like dust mites, animal dander, indoor mold etc.
Dust Mites: While we may be regularly cleaning our house but dust mites are tiny microscopic organisms/ bugs that cannot be seen with the naked eye. These particles are generally more prominent on carpets, rugs, and mattress and they can trigger allergy or cause allergic symptoms among kids.
Cockroach:  These although they may appear harmless yet they can aggravate allergies. In fact, the saliva, body part of the insect and the faeces of cockroaches comprise specific proteins or allergens that may cause allergies.  Thus this leads to allergic reaction/ symptoms among kids.

- Animal Dander:  Pets tend to become an integral member of the family and especially during winters we encourage them to stay indoors. We cannot stop kids who anyway love to play with pets. Unfortunately, this can become critical if your child is allergic to the protein contained in their dander, saliva, and urine. Fur usually is not a triggering factor
- Molds: Generally molds are a form of fungi that generally thrives in wet/moist condition. They can be present in either a wet bathroom, corners of the house, basements etc. They usually trigger allergy through their spores that tend to spread in the air.  At times they can accumulate on a particular object that has been lying around for ages for instance a Christmas tree.  
- Perfumes & Air Freshener: While we may love to spray some perfuse or air freshers in our house but generally to avoid the chilly winds we may keep most of the windows of our house closed, thus restricting cross ventilation in the house. However, in such a scenario these sprays can instantly trigger symptoms of allergy, like sneezing or coughing. 

Common symptoms of allergy among kids
Runny nose/sneezing
Itchy eyes, throat, ears and nose
Postnasal drip
Watery and red eyes
Parents often ask a question on how one can distinguish the symptoms of allergy as most of them are usually found when your child is under the weather. However cold as a rule should not stretch beyond 10 days unfortunately allergy can stay for months. Usually, the flu is also accompanied by body age, temperature etc but these symptoms are absent in the case of allergies.
Preventive measures

Since it’s not possible to prevent winter allergy but if your family has a history of allergy then it is advisable to take certain preventive steps to prevent the same.
Once in every 15 days wash curtains, beddings etc in hot water so it can prevent the thriving of dust mites
Let your pets stay outdoors or away from your kid’s bathroom
It is advisable to remove any heavy carpets or rugs from your child’s room as children tend to spend time playing on them
It is important to clean the floor and tiles of rooms of bathroom and kitchen in particular
Please maintain the humidity level in the house. Keeping a dehumidifier is a good practice and the levels should be below 50%.
Common winter ailments
During the winter season, it is common for children to develop respiratory tract infection. A sore throat is the most common ailment children face during this period. This is caused by a mostly by a virus and can be bacterial as well, but can be quite painful. Although there is no specific medication for viral form, it usually gets better in 7-10 days by proper personal hygienic care, good nutrition and drinking hot and clean water and simple steps like regular mouth gargling with warm saltwater.
Make sure to check their ears. Do not use earbuds to clean ears. Ear infections are common as a part of the common cold during this time of the year. Urinary infection is one more thing to look out for. UTI can be seen in children from infancy into their teen years. The symptoms are burning sensation during urination, the need to frequently urinate, bed-wetting, abdominal pain and bad urine odour/smelly urine. This can be prevented by practising clean hygiene, urinating when required and keeping kids hydrated well.

About the author: Dr Santosh Kumar, Consultant Neonatologist & Paediatrician, Motherhood Hospitals, Banashankari, Bangalore

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