Sniffle Solutions: Expert Q+A

By (BIM) Mark Smith


Sniffle Solutions: Expert Q+A

By Dr. Kevin McGrath for Sniffle Solutions

Seasonal allergies can definitely make for a poor night’s sleep: In fact, a recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that 1 in 3 people suffering from symptoms report insomnia. That’s because, for some reason we don’t entirely understand, histamines -- our bodies’ reaction to allergies -- kick us out of deep, restful (aka REM) sleep and into lighter, less restorative shuteye. So your kid can technically log nine hours and still wake up feeling fatigued. What’s more, nasal congestion makes breathing more difficult, stimulating your kid to wake up throughout the night.

If you suspect your kid’s allergies are disrupting his sleep, see a pediatrician or a board-certified allergist, who can perform a physical and skin tests to identify the exact trigger(s).

It’s also smart for your kid to avoid obvious irritants during the school day, since histamines are released four to six hours after allergen exposure. A few common culprits include:

  • School pets: The classroom hamster may aggravate your child’s allergies -- especially if his symptoms increase while he’s at school.
  • Dust: Kids with allergic problems may need to sit away from the blackboards to avoid irritation from chalk dust.
  • Pollen: Pollen counts peak in the middle of the day, so -- if possible -- it’s better for your kids to eat and play inside at lunchtime.

You’ll also want to take a few simple steps to reduce your child’s seasonal allergy symptoms at night:

  • Keep the outdoors out. Close the windows and don’t use fans that pull in outside air.
  • Clear the air. Place a HEPA air filter and air-conditioner in your bedroom to filter allergens and recirculate air internally.
  • Clean up. Pollen can grab onto hair and release into your kid’s bedding, aggravating allergies. So after your kid has been playing outside, have him shower immediately and throw his clothes in the laundry to avoid tracking spores throughout your home.
  • Keep pets out of the bedroom. Cats or dogs are a given, but parents often don’t realize that a hamster or rat might be causing their kids’ sniffles. Plus, most rodents are nocturnal, and the allergen is in their urine -- which they produce more of at night.

Your doctor may additionally recommend over-the-counter and prescription medications, such as antihistamines, nasal corticosteroid sprays, decongestants or even allergy injections.

Allergies are more common than you might think, affecting up to 40 percent of children, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Most allergies get worse with age, but allergy injections can actually reverse symptoms and reduce your kid’s chances of asthma, so he’ll be better off the earlier and more aggressive you are with treatment. To find an allergist in your area, visit

*As told to Colleen Canney, group editor of Sniffle Solutions

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