Guest Blogger: Deanna Richmond, MD, Primary Care Pediatrician, South County Pediatrics, Webster, MA
Nasal congestion. Sneezing. Itchy, red or watery eyes. Throat irritation. Wheezing. These might be the symptoms of a run-of-the-mill cold, or seasonal allergies could be the culprit! While the snow was still falling in New England just a few short weeks ago, it won’t be long before pollen will be whirling in its place. Many folks will be burdened with the symptoms of allergic rhinitis (or hay fever). Here are some tips for dealing with seasonal allergies in your children:
The most common trigger of allergies in the spring is tree pollen, with birch and oak being among the most common in Massachusetts. And while we all love the flowers and new growth that springtime brings, if your child has seasonal allergies, the joy of being able to play outside can be hampered by the itchy eyes, runny nose and other discomforts caused by pollen.
So What Can You Do?
The first line of defense against seasonal allergies is avoidance.
- Keep your child indoors on days when it’s dry and windy, and when the pollen count is high. You can check your local pollen count by watching your local weather report or by visiting the National Allergy Bureau.
- Keep windows in your home and car closed.
- Don’t hang laundry outside because pollen can settle on the laundry.
- Likewise, leave your shoes and socks at the door. Wearing your shoes indoors will only track all of that pollen around with you!
- Have your child bathe at the end of the day to remove any pollen that may have accumulated on his/her hair or body.
- When cleaning, use gloves and a vacuum with a HEPA filter.
For symptom relief without resorting to medications you can try:
- Cool compresses for itchy eyes
- Saline spray for nasal congestion
- Salt water gargle for a sore throat
Medications Could Help
When it comes to treating allergies with medication, the two mainstays of treatment are antihistamines and nasal corticosteroids. If your child has a history of seasonal allergies and experiences symptoms at the same time every year that last several weeks, your pediatrician may recommend or prescribe one or both of these types of medications. If your child has confirmed and severe allergies based on allergy testing, your pediatrician may also refer you to an allergy/immunology specialist who can provide relief with allergy shots.
If you suspect your child might have seasonal allergies, be sure to talk to your child’s pediatrician for advice on how to keep his/her symptoms at bay so they can “get out there and smell the roses!”
Test your knowledge. Is the pollen from certain plants more allergenic than others? Are there specific times of the day when pollen is most abundant in the air? Take this Pollen Quiz to find out how much you know.