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The Informed Parent


by Louis P. Theriot, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Jan. 01, 1997

Dear Dr. Theriot,

For the past 3 months my 9 year old son wakes up in the morning and sneezes around 20 times. His nose is terribly stuffed up, and he has to breathe through his mouth. My guess is that he is allergic to dust like I am. A friend told me to pull up the carpet in his bedroom, and remove the curtains in his room. What do you think?  

The more important question is what exactly is your son allergic to? It sounds as if he does have allergic rhinitis, or "hay fever". But the fact that his symptoms started around 3 months ago leads me to believe that his allergies may be seasonal rather than year round. If so, I would be concerned about his reacting to other airborne allergens. These could be trees, grasses, weeds, molds, dogs, cats etc.

He may very well be allergic to dust, but that may just be one tiny piece of a big puzzle. If he is allergic to other allergens, limiting the dust in your house will prove to be futile and frustrating. Before you launch into such an undertaking, I would discuss the symptoms with your son's doctor. He should be able to determine exactly what your son is reacting to.

Much can be learned from a detailed history. Was he an allergic infant (eczema, formula changes because of food allergies)? Is there a family history of allergies? Are his symptoms seasonal, or do they occur year round? Are there pets in the house, and for how long in relation to the symptoms? Do family members smoke at home?

The doctor might recommend skin testing, or blood testing to determine exactly what he is allergic to. The results of these tests can often be a real eye-opener as many patients are very allergic to things around the house that they are exposed to every day.

Once you have ALL of the facts, then you can sit down with the doctor and come up with a logical and step-wise plan to treat your son and relieve his allergies. He might recommend a medication to be taken orally, or possibly one that is used in an inhaler. He might recommend a change in the environment such as trying to eliminate dust, or even removing a pet from the house. And lastly, he may recommend the series of shots to desensitize him.

So before you take any action on your own, I would let his doctor sort out exactly what the allergies are...this is really the bottom line. There are many different modalities to treat these types of allergies, and quite successfully. But you have to know what the culprit is. With this in mind, your son should look forward to a comfortable summer.

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