GET A HANDLE ON POLLEN ALLERGIES!
I didn’t have any reaction to pollen until my early 30s, so it was a real shock when last spring my 3-year old broke out into red, itchy splotches on her eyelids, began sneezing like crazy, had nasal congestion and started coughing the second Atlanta was in bloom. She was obviously allergic, and I was unprepared.
Dr. David Tanner, an allergist and chief medical officer at Atlanta Allergy & Asthma, explains that allergies are genetic, so if you have them, it’s more likely your child will. “While they can appear at any age, allergies are more common in children,” he says.
Any cold-like symptom might understandably raise an eyebrow these days, but sneezing and itchy eyes, nose or throat are more commonly associated with allergies, Tanner notes. “Allergy symptoms tend to be present longer, sometimes lasting six to eight weeks, than those of an upper respiratory infection and occur each spring, fall or both. Upper respiratory infections are more likely to be accompanied by chills, muscle aches, headache and sore throat. It is almost certainly an infection, not an allergy, if fever is present.” Fatigue is another possible allergy symptom. Here, Tanner offers advice on what to do to prevent and lessen kids’ discomfort this spring and beyond.
Begin Meds in Advance
Over-the-counter allergy medications, such as antihistamines, antihistamine eye drops or nasal steroid sprays, are most effective if you begin to take them in advance of peak pollen season before symptoms begin. “They may need to be used daily during the pollen season to get the best relief from allergy symptoms,” Tanner says.
Minimize your child’s allergen exposure in the house by changing air filters monthly, removing shoes upon entering your home and wiping down pets with a damp cloth if they’ve been outdoors. “Pets can easily track pollen into your home, leaving it on carpets and furniture,” Tanner notes. Since pollen can settle on your hair, skin and clothing, kids should take a shower or bath before bed and put on fresh clothes after playing outside.
Pollen counts tend to be highest midday, so adjust outdoor activities accordingly, says Tanner, who suggests running the car AC on the recycled setting instead of zooming around with the windows down. What’s more, sunglasses may help keep fine particles out of sensitive eyes, and wearing a mask when outdoors can create a barrier.
When to See a Doc
Parents should see a physician when their child’s daily activities or sleep are being impacted by allergy symptoms, and over-the-counter medications are not controlling those symptoms. A board-certified allergist can perform a skin test to confirm and recommend treatment targeted to manage the allergens causing the symptoms, says Tanner. A treatment plan may include prescription medications, environmental control recommendations and immunotherapy (allergy shots).
If you’re noticing your child has allergy symptoms year-round, they might be allergic to indoor allergens such as dust, mold and pet dander. Or they might be allergic to all the pollens, from trees in the spring, grass in the late spring and summer months, and weeds (specifically ragweed) beginning as early as August in the South and lasting until mid-October.
ATLANTA ALLERGY & ASTHMA
Managing Editor and Wellness Columnist at Simply Buckhead. Blogger at Badass + Healthy.