I love spring. It’s finally warmer. The birds are chirping happily. The grass is so green. The trees and flowers are blooming. I am sneezing. I love spring. I just don’t love springtime allergies. Do your children suffer from seasonal allergies?
Allergies are the bodies response to a “trigger.” This trigger may be a variety of substances such as pollen, dust, mold, insect stings, certain foods, or animal dander. This trigger may enter the body through breathing, touch, or eating. The body mistakenly sees this trigger as a threat and releases a chemical called histamine, which is to blame for the symptoms of allergies. Allergies tend to run in families. They can develop and change over time.
Common allergy symptoms include itchy, watery eyes, sneezing and a clear runny nose. They sound a lot like a cold, don’t they? The difference is that a cold is caused by a virus and will improve within 7 to 10 days, while allergies tend to be far more persistent. (Cold symptoms lasting longer than a week, especially with fever longer than three days should be evaluated by your pediatric healthcare provider.) Allergy symptoms can last for weeks or months. Allergy symptoms tend to be seasonal and worsen in the spring and fall, although some children have year-round symptoms.
Your child may have allergies if you notice dark circles around the eyes (allergic shiners), itchy or watery eyes, persistent nasal congestion, or an itchy nose (the allergy salute). Children with asthma and eczema are at increased risk for allergies, as these three can occur together. Allergies can also make your child feel tired and worn down. Some children will get hives (itchy red welts on the skin) in response to an insect sting or food allergy. Although rare, some children can have an anaphylactic reaction (trouble breathing) to certain food or insect stings.
Here are ways to help your child avoid allergy triggers:
• Keep your home and car windows and doors closed. Run the air conditioner.
• Remove shoes before entering the house.
• Give your children a shower or bath before bedtime.
• Don’t allow kids to play with pets after bathing or showering.
• Keep the pets out of bedrooms.
• Shampoo pets often.
• Launder machine-washable toys in hot water weekly.
• Change home air filters every three months with allergy-proof filters.
• Use a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) air filter in the bedrooms.
• If your home is dry, consider a humidifier, but beware: mold loves moisture.
• Kill mold in the bathroom with bleach and water solution.
• Vacuum with a HEPA vacuum and dust with a microfiber cloth.
• Wear a mask and gloves for housework and yardwork.
• Use allergy-proof covers on pillows and mattresses.
• Avoid feather and throw pillows.
• Be sure kids wear shoes outside to avoid stepping on stinging insects.
• Avoid any food triggers that your child may have.
Rinsing your child’s nasal passageways with a neti pot or sinus rinse device helps to wash away allergy triggers. Be sure to use the recommended saline packet and warmed sterile water.
Over-the-counter antihistamine products contained in children’s allergy medication are available as liquids and chewable or dissolvable tablets, and some are approved for use as young as two years with the advice of your child’s pediatric health care provider. Some may cause drowsiness. Check with your pediatric healthcare provider prior to use to ask about age constraints, dosage, and side effects.
Your child may need a nasal corticosteroid spray to decrease nasal congestion. These are available in both prescription and over-the-counter forms. Children who have serious food or insect allergies need to carry a prescription epinephrine auto-injector to prevent anaphylaxis (trouble breathing). See your pediatric healthcare provider to obtain that prescription.
If your child’s allergy symptoms are severe or if the over-the counter medications are not helping, you may wish to consider a visit to a pediatric allergist. The pediatric allergist can test your child for allergies, either through skin tests or blood tests. They may recommend allergy shots, sublingual (under the tongue) immunotherapy, or other medications to help minimize your child’s allergies. Pediatric allergists are well versed in various options to treat seasonal allergies.
Allergies cannot be cured, but the symptoms can be improved. Happy spring! Achooo!
Melanie J. Wilhelm, DNP, CPNP, is a Doctor of Nursing Practice, and a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner in Norfolk, as well as a lecturer at Old Dominion University. Her first book, Raising Today’s Baby, is available on Amazon.com or at RaisingTodaysChild.com. You may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RaisingTodaysChild and twitter at www.twitter.com/Rzn2dayschild