Many kids have allergies this time of year. Here's how to detect and minimize allergy symptoms in your child.

By Karin Bilich

When autumn arrives and cooler weather is here, so are the allergies.

Ragweed, a common source of fall allergies, is abundant in the fall as a result of the rain in the spring and early summer followed by sunny, drier days. Mold is also a common problem this time of year, as the piles of leaves on the ground coupled with a bit of moisture allow mold to start growing.

So how do you know if your child is allergic to mold or ragweed? According to The American Academy of Pediatrics Guide to Your Child's Allergies and Asthma, here are some signs to watch out for this fall:

  • Repeated or chronic coldlike symptoms that last more than a week or two, or that develop at about the same time every year. These could include a runny nose, nasal stuffiness, sneezing, and throat clearing.
  • Nose rubbing, sniffling, snorting, sneezing, and itchy, runny eyes.
  • Itching or tingling sensations in the mouth and throat. Itchiness is not usually a complaint with a cold, but it is the hallmark of an allergy problem.
  • Coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, and other respiratory symptoms. Coughing may be an isolated symptom; increases at night or with exercise are suspicious for asthma.

If your child is showing any of these allergy symptoms, you should start by trying to reduce her exposure to the allergens. While pollen and mold are found everywhere outdoors and cannot be completely avoided, there are a few things you can do:

Plan outdoor activities for the morning. Weed pollens are highest in the middle of the day.

After your child plays outside, have him take a shower, wash his hair, and change his clothes immediately.

Keep windows and outside doors shut during pollen season. Consider keeping an air conditioner running on low to continually clean the air in the house.

Keep up with pollen and mold counts -- they're often reported in the news. Making sure your child stays indoors during peak hours and keeping windows closed is even more important when the counts are high.

Don't let your child play in dead or wet leaves. This is where the mold grows.

If your child's allergy symptoms continue to interfere with his daily life (energy level, attention, etc.), speak to your child's pediatrician. Kids' allergies can often be treated with a basic antihistamine or decongestant. However, more severe allergies may require regular allergy shots during the peak seasons. Speak to the pediatrician before administering any medicine to your child.

Updated May 2010

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