Putting the pieces together
Fortunately, identifying your child’s allergy triggers should be slightly less complicated. During the spring, tree pollen tends to be the culprit, while pollen from grasses and weeds in the summer and ragweed in the fall are more often the cause. Cigarette smoke, pet dander and dust mites (microscopic bugs that thrive indoors) can also be triggers that lead to more chronic year-round (perennial) rather than seasonal allergic rhinitis. Bear in mind that things like dust mite and pet allergies usually develop after the fi rst year of life, while pollen allergies tend to arise after the age of 3, Blaiss says.
If your child has a family history and you notice some or all of the symptoms of allergic rhinitis (watery, clear discharge; dry cough and sneezing; itchy, watery, puffy eyes with dark circles underneath; itchy nose; scratchy throat; no fever; and duration of more than two weeks), but you can’t identify the triggers, visit your pediatrician for a full exam. You may be referred to an allergist for a skin test, during which the doctor will usually prick your child’s arm and place a drop of an allergen on it, then wait for a response resembling a mosquito bite. “Skin-testing is the fastest and most costeffective way to detect allergic rhinitis,” says Blaiss. “There’s concern about it being painful, but generally parents say if they’d known it would be that easy, they would’ve done it a long time ago.”
In fact, you’ll likely find out exactly what’s making your tot miserable in as little as 15 minutes. Blood tests, which detect a chemical response to certain allergens, are better for food allergy testing and are typically only used if your child can’t or doesn’t want to have the skin test.