Take Symptoms Seriously
You may brush off your child's sniffles at this time of year as a bit of hay fever, but pay attention to whether he reacts in specific locations, like the basement or outside after you've mowed, and also if his symptoms persist beyond spring pollen season (generally March to June). If your pediatrician thinks that mold may be the culprit, she'll probably refer you to an allergist for testing. The allergist will lightly prick your child's skin with a needle containing common allergens and watch for a hive-like reaction. "The skin test is the gold standard for identifying allergies and finding the treatment that is the most effective," according to Stuart Abramson, MD, PhD, a pediatric allergist and immunologist at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston.
When your child is mildly allergic, avoiding exposure may be the only treatment she needs. Check your local newspaper or the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology's National Allergy Bureau (aaaai.org/nab) for outdoor mold-spore levels in your area, and try to stay indoors when levels are high. If your child's allergy is severe, a combination of an over-the-counter antihistamine, like Claritin or Zyrtec, and a prescription inhaled nasal steroid, such as Flonase or Nasonex, should help. Immunotherapy shots against mold are available, but experts say they aren't always effective. During our own cleanup after the hurricane, we sealed our daughters' bedroom door to keep the mold spores contained, and then we tore out the wet Sheetrock and carpet. Within days, Emily's wheezing subsided, and I'd learned a valuable lesson: If you can't prevent mold, get rid of it as fast as possible.