Gesundheit! If your family is one of the millions affected by allergies, you probably dread Spring. Pollen, mold, and other allergens come into their own as the weather warms up, making life miserable for allergic children and their parents. If you’re ready to say good-bye to itchy eyes and runny noses, read on.

A stuffy or runny nose, dry or watery eyes, irritated skin (eczema), and even asthma are classic allergy symptoms. No matter how clear it seems to you that your child has allergies, it’s worth taking a trip to an allergist for confirmation. He or she will pinpoint the source of your child’s symptoms with a simple skin prick test. That’s important, because a child whose allergens lie outdoors should be treated differently than one whose allergens live inside. And since many of us are allergic to many things, you may find that reducing exposure to even some of those things will greatly improve your child’s comfort level.

Although there are lots of medications available to treat allergic symptoms, there are also a number of steps you can take at home to reduce exposure. Because people don’t start exhibiting symptoms until the “allergic threshold” is reached, the more you can do to prevent that, the better.

  • Children spend more time in their bedrooms than any other room in the house, so this is your top priority. Purchase allergen-proof zippered cases for the pillows and mattress, and wash all bedding weekly in hot water to kill dust mites. Exchange curtains and blinds for shades that won’t hold dust. Once a week, put all stuffed animals in a plastic bag and freeze. Pets should never be allowed in bedrooms, as their dander is highly allergenic.
  • Whenever possible, remove carpets and knickknacks. Dust, vacuum and mop at least once a week. Invest in a HEPA filter for your vacuum. If possible, leave the house for a few hours afterward to let the dust settle.
  • Make sure all the heat and air conditioning units in your house have new filters, and keep them clean. If your child is allergic to ragweed and pollen, keep your windows closed and use air conditioning; if dust and mold are the culprits, air your home daily.
  • Keep the humidity below 50%, since mold and dust mites thrive on warm, wet air. Install an exhaust in your bathroom and above your stove to vent humidity and smoke outside. If you see mold, clean it up.

You can't keep your kid in a bubble through life, just to make sure they're comfortable. But luckily, some pretty simple steps can often make a huge difference. Try them out. And hopefully next time allergy season rolls around, you're home will be a haven of sneeze-less bliss.