It’s sometimes hard to tell what season it is, but this week pollen counts are high. If your child continues to sneeze and have a runny nose and the pollen count isn’t high, it may be that their allergies aren’t pollen and other outdoor allergens. While you can’t control tree pollen and other outdoor allergens, there’s plenty you can do inside your home to make it more comfortable for you and your family. Americans spend over $11 billion dollars on allergy medicines alone — not counting doctor visits or time off work.

But first, a few facts: Did you know that 40 million Americans suffer from indoor allergies? Asthma, a related illness, is the number one childhood chronic disease, affecting nine million children in the U.S.

There are ways to make your home a more comfortable space to live. It’s going to take a bit of work, but you’ll breathe easier once you do it. That means clearing your space of and controlling allergens as much as possible. And, you wouldn’t believe what’s considered an allergen.

Air fresheners, perfumes and cockroaches, among others, are all things that can trigger your allergies. These tips are not exhaustive. But, there’s a great website, www.aaaai.org that offers a bounty of resources about allergy and asthma.

• First, get rid of clutter. If it’s accumulating dust, it’s a breeding ground for allergens that can trigger your sniffles.

• Clean everything: A/C vents, ceiling fans, bookshelves, window sills, and even floors.

• Clean moldy surfaces, such as the corners of showers or under sinks, with a cleaning solution that is 10 parts water to one part bleach.

• Wash blankets and bed linens in super-hot water (130 degrees Fahrenheit) and dry them in a hot dryer.

• Ideally, replace carpeting with hard-surface flooring, like tile or laminate. But, this can be pricey, so a thorough vacuuming should help.

Of course, pets might be an issue, as well. We’re sure Fido’s officially part of the family, and unless the problem is very serious, we wouldn’t dream of suggesting you get rid of your four-legged friend. But, weekly washings and prohibiting your child from nap-time with your pet should ease the effect the dander has on triggering you or your child’s symptoms.

And, finally, there’s the pet we love to hate … the cockroach. Their droppings can trigger your allergy symptoms, too. Make sure your home isn’t a breeding ground for them by sealing all food sources, removing food from your counters, and cleaning crumbs off the floor. If that doesn’t help, hiring a good exterminator should do the trick.

If your child’s symptoms persist, it may mean a trip to a pediatric allergy and asthma specialist who can help isolate the causes and recommend a way to manage your child’s allergies.

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.

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