Dust, cats, peanuts, cockroaches are an odd collection with a common thread: allergies. Allergies are a major cause of illness in the United States. Millions of kids have some type of allergy.

An allergy is the body’s overreaction to a substance that is usually harmless. However, in children with an allergy, the body treats the substance as an invader. As the body attempts to rid itself of the invading allergen it releases chemicals that can cause sneezing, an itchy nose and/or throat, nasal congestion, and coughing

Some of the most common environmental allergens are:

Dust Mites – These tiny insects live all around us and feed on the millions of dead skin cells that fall off our bodies every day. They are the biggest component of house dust, and live in bedding, upholstery, and carpets.

Pollen- This allergen is comprised of tiny particles that are released into the air from trees, weeds, and grasses to fertilize other plants.

Molds – Another common allergen, are fungi that grow in warm, moist environments. Molds thrive in dark, poorly ventilated places such as bathrooms and damp basements, and in clothes hampers or under kitchen sinks.

Pet Allergens – Animals can cause problems for kids and parents alike. When an animal licks itself, the saliva gets on its fur or feathers. As the saliva dries, protein particles become airborne and work their way into fabrics in the home. Cats are the worst offenders because the protein from their saliva is extremely tiny and they tend to lick themselves more than other animals as part of grooming.

Cockroaches – Exposure to cockroach-infested buildings may be a major cause of the high rates of asthma in inner-city kids.

While there is no cure for allergies, it is possible to relieve many of the symptoms. The only real way to cope with allergies is to reduce your child’s exposure to allergens.

Here are some things that can help kids avoid airborne allergens:

  • Keep family pets out of your child’s bedroom and bathe them regularly.
  • Remove carpets or rugs from your child’s room
  • Limit stuffed animals and other dust collectors
  • Don’t hang heavy drapes and remove other items that allow dust to accumulate.
  • Clean frequently.
  • Use special covers to seal pillows and mattresses if your child is allergic to dust mites.
  • Keep the windows closed when the pollen season is at its peak and change your child’s clothing after being outdoors.
  • Keep kids who are allergic to mold away from damp areas, such as basements.
  • Keep bathrooms and other mold-prone areas clean and dry.