Itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing … forget waiting for the weather report — your child’s symptoms broadcast loud and clear that it is allergy season!
Tree, grass and weed pollens along with mold spores can make life miserable for scores of allergy sufferers, and spring means lots of sneeze-inducing flora are in full bloom. And, thanks to a warm winter, trees are blooming earlier, which means pollen levels are rapidly climbing higher than normal. Without freezing temperatures to cause grass to go dormant, the pollen and mold spores they emit are rampant. Just ask the hood of your car, which is no doubt colored a delicate shade of goldenrod by now!
Navigating your child’s allergy season symptoms requires a plan, sprinkled with some knowledge and prevention, and possibly fortified with medication. If your child is an allergy sufferer, he isn’t alone. Up to 40 percent of children in the United States are affected. In fact, Dr. Jeff M. Phillips, an otolaryngologist with Accent Physician Specialists, said that “children as young as 3 years old can have allergies to outdoor allergens, while kids as young as 1–2 years old can have allergies to indoor allergens, such as dust mites, pet dander and molds.” Knowing what your child is allergic to is a simple first step, involving a visit to an allergy doctor or an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor. Finding out exactly which allergens are wreaking havoc goes a long way toward helping you know how to combat them.
Skin tests in which the doctor applies a diluted allergen to the skin with a small prick can identify specifically what is making your child feel so lousy. From there, many times doctors will prescribe various antihistamines, nasal sprays and other allergy combatants. Dr. Phillips noted that most common antihistamines do have pediatric formulations, so they are safe for your child to use. Once outside the doctors’ office, it is time to go into offensive mode.
At no time in history have we ever been as informed about the condition of our air quality as we are now! With a quick check of websites like Pollen.com and Weatherchannel.com, parents can easily obtain the pollen counts for their area and determine if their child will likely be suffering more or less from their allergies that day. As a rule of thumb, warm and dry days (especially with wind) will be worse for allergy sufferers than cool and moist days. The best time for your child to spend outdoors is right after it rains, when pollen has been temporarily washed away and the air is cleaner. Ironically, thunderstorms can produce nasty effects for allergy sufferers, as their increased winds can spread and even rupture pollen grains, causing a phenomenon known as “thunderstorm asthma,” which according to Jaxallergy.com (the website of the Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida) can cause increased and worsened allergy symptoms.
Outdoor pollen levels can also affect indoor air quality as children can track in allergens on their shoes and clothing after being outside. Keep doors and windows closed and use an air purifier with a HEPA filter to clean out airborne particles. Also, having children change out of their outdoor clothes will also reduce the allergens in their immediate environment. A bath before bedtime will remove any residual pollen and other allergens from your child’s skin.
And which allergy culprits are the worst offenders this time of year? Beyond the grass, look no further than the abundant oaks, which have a long period of pollen production (February to late May), according to Jaxallergy.com. The other trees that cause the most allergy issues in Florida include birch (late winter, early spring), elm (late January through the spring), bayberry and maple. And even though pine trees are the ones to coat every outdoor surface with their yellowy pollen, pine allergies are rare — more likely the oaks are to blame for your child’s symptoms.
Tips from Dr. Phillips
—Grass and weed pollens peak earlier in the morning, so it might be best to have a child who suffers from spring allergies avoid heavy play outdoors during that time.
—Sunglasses can help protect eyes from pollen.
—Use pillow and mattress covers on beds and use a dehumidifier to keep indoor air dry.
—Avoid hanging laundry outside, as sheets and clothes can pick up pollen from the air.