My son has been congested for what seems like months now. He sometimes has
a runny nose and itchy, watery eyes, too. Could this be allergies? –
If the seasons have changed and your son has continued to have allergy symptoms,
it's possible that he has perennial (year-round) allergies, or what's called perennial
allergic rhinitis. This type of allergy is usually caused by indoor allergens like
dust mites, indoor mold, and pet dander or saliva.
The only way to know for sure, though, is to talk with your doctor, who will ask
questions about your son's symptoms and when they happen (for example, when he's indoors,
around pets, or in certain rooms of the house). Based on the answers and a physical
exam, the doctor might be able to make a diagnosis. If not, the doctor may refer
your son to an allergist for skin
testing. Skin tests are quick and involve putting a purified form of an allergen
either on the skin or underneath it and then watching for an allergic reaction.
Vacuum regularly using a vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air)
filter or a double-layer bag.
To dry out the air, use a dehumidifier (especially in damp areas) or air conditioner,
and consider using a HEPA air purifier.
For dust mite allergies, remove carpets or rugs from your son's
room (hard floor surfaces don't collect dust as much as carpets do), and don't hang
heavy drapes or keep other items in the house, like stuffed animals, that collect
dust. Special covers can be put on pillows and mattresses to seal out dust. Wash bedding
weekly in hot water and dry in a hot dryer.
For pet allergies, keep pets out of certain rooms, like your
son's bedroom, and minimize contact. If your child is highly allergic, you may need
to consider finding another home for your pet.
For mold spore allergies, keep your son away from damp areas,
such as basements, and keep bathrooms and other mold-prone areas clean and dry. Avoid
storing items in damp areas.
If reducing exposure isn't possible or doesn't help, medicines can help ease allergy
symptoms. These may include decongestants, antihistamines, and nasal spray steroids.
If symptoms cannot be managed with medicines, the doctor may recommend taking your
child to an allergist or immunologist for regular allergy
shots (immunotherapy) to help desensitize him to the allergens.