Sniffles and Sneezes

By: Jenn Ripepi, MD, The Choosy Pediatrician

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It's a beautiful summer day and someone has a runny nose. How can that be? Is it a cold? Is it allergies? It is hard to know what to do about those sniffles and sneezes sometimes. Let me just give you a few little tips when wiping those runny noses.

    • Viruses are the usual culprits for runny noses: They are also associated with low-grade fevers, cough, and the general blahs we get with the common cold. We can catch them any time of the year and you will typically have more than one family member with symptoms around the same time. We pick up these "bugs" from others who have been ill and they can be on surfaces in public areas.
      • o Tip to steer clear of viruses: Hand washing is the best way to try to prevent these illnesses any time of the year. Check out the Choosy Kids song My Hands Need Washed to help with hand washing!
      • o Don't forget to cover a cough or sneeze, get rest, and drink fluids while you have a cold. If your children are active and pretty much their typical selves when they have a cold, it's a good sign they're doing fine and no need for any other treatment. For worsening or persistent symptoms then perhaps a call or visit to your healthcare provider is warranted.
    • Unfortunately, your body may be allergic: Allergies are sometimes a bit of a challenge to figure out but the good news is that most are mild annoyances and self-limited. Some are easy to detect. If you walk into a room where there is a pet and suddenly sneeze and have itchy, watery eyes when starting to pet the animal, you are likely displaying allergy symptoms. Most allergies from environmental causes make our bodies release histamine and other chemicals. These most often cause an itching reaction such as itchy, watery eyes and/or nose, hives on our skin or a scratchy throat. Many people sneeze a lot when they have allergy flares. A tendency to allergies may be inherited, though family members may be allergic to different things or have varying severity of their symptoms. A seasonal pattern tends to occur with "hayfever" and so noting when the symptoms occur may help to solve the puzzle. If the symptoms include fever or difficulty breathing, especially if the onset is sudden and severe, professional care is urgently warranted. For mild symptoms, avoiding the cause if you know it is helpful. For more specific treatments I recommend you talk to your healthcare provider.
    • It’s just in the air: Sometimes our runny noses may be caused by the environment but not necessarily be allergies. When they air is very dry and dusty, our bodies need to keep our noses moist and clean. So, then we may have the need to sneeze, have watery noses or mild congestion, maybe some coughs and even watery eyes. Sometimes we have very low humidity inside our homes, especially in winter. Do you ever walk around shocking each other or having staticky hair? Well, that dry air will cause our noses to make more mucus and secrete moisture. During this time, we really don't feel sick, we just have a stuffy nose. Humidifier and vaporizers can help as well as drinking lots of fluids.

Keeping runny noses under control may be challenging but most often it's minor. A part of childhood. In fact, the American Sign Language sign for ‘kids’ is a nose wipe!

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