Seasonal allergies occur during warm weather months, spring through fall in our part of the country, and are triggered by plant pollens in the air.
Q: After this cold winter, I know most people are looking forward to spring, but in our family, spring means the start of seasonal allergies. What are the best ways to reduce the problems that are coming in our household?
A: Seasonal allergies occur during warm weather months, spring through fall in our part of the country, and are triggered by plant pollens in the air. Trees are the first to pollinate. In the spring, tree pollens are notorious for causing terrible eye symptoms (itch, watering, redness) in addition to nasal congestion, runny nose and itch in allergic individuals. While there is no quick cure for seasonal allergies, it's absolutely possible to relieve symptoms, so spring can be a playful season for your children, enjoyed outdoors.
One way to combat allergens is to limit exposure to them, but if that is impossible or ineffective, medicines can also help ease symptoms. First and foremost, always consult your child's pediatrician when making decisions about your child's health. Decongestants, antihistamines and nasal spray steroids are all options. If symptoms cannot be managed with medications, your child's pediatrician may recommend a visit to a pediatric allergist or immunologist. Allergists can begin working with children very early on in order to provide the best care and treatment of allergies throughout every season.
Allergy symptoms include itchy or watery eyes, runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, throat clearing and cough. It's important to make your child's home – especially the bedroom – pollen-free. Keep windows closed inside the house and car during pollen season. While spring is usually cooler, air conditioning is still a good option to reduce pollen exposure.
Pollen levels are highest in the mornings, so outdoor activities should be planned for later in the day if possible. After being outside, it's helpful to bathe or shower, wash hair and change clothes before bedtime. By limiting your child's exposure to the allergen, you can help him enjoy the spring season to the fullest.
Check out our allergy/asthma resource page for a short video on how to limit pollen exposure: http://www.nationwidechildrens.org/allergy-asthma-resources.
-Amber M. Patterson, MD, FAAP, Section of Allergy and Immunology at Nationwide Children's Hospital. @theallergydoc