As a parent, you hate to see your child suffer, and it seems like every spring their allergies kick in a little earlier and are more severe than the previous year. Fortunately, you can take steps to manage your child’s seasonal allergies and protect them from the worst of their hay fever symptoms.
What causes spring allergies?
Spring allergies, colloquially known as hay fever and clinically referred to as seasonal allergic rhinitis, affect around 8.4% of American children. Hay fever is most common in the spring as trees, grasses, and other plants awaken, budding new leaves and flowers and producing increased amounts of pollen.
This increase in pollen is the primary trigger of hay fever, leading to nasal congestion, a runny nose, itchy or watery eyes, and coughing. Hay fever may even cause skin irritation and rashes.
Children can start to develop seasonal allergies when they’re as young as 2 years old. In most cases, children develop seasonal allergies before the age of 10. Their symptoms may change from year to year, or even increase in severity until their mid-20s, before subsiding and disappearing in adulthood.
How to tell if your child’s symptoms are due to allergies or a cold
While allergies and colds cause similar symptoms, there are a few differences. The most obvious difference is that hay fever frequently causes itchy eyes and colds don’t. Other signs that your child has allergies and not a cold include:
- Allergy symptoms last for weeks or even months, while colds usually last 10 days or less
- Allergies cause clear, thin nasal discharge, while colds produce thick white or yellow mucus
- Allergies don’t cause a fever or muscle aches as colds do
If you’re not sure if your child is suffering from a cold or allergies, make an appointment with your pediatrician for diagnosis and allergy testing.
Steps to manage your child’s spring allergies
If you know your child suffers from spring allergies, you can take steps to manage the symptoms and protect your child’s overall health.
Know the early warning signs
First, know the earliest symptoms of allergies so you can take action early. You know your kids best, so whether the first sign of hay fever is snoring and a sore throat due to post nasal drip or a runny nose, keep an eye out for any changes in your little one’s health and demeanor.
Understand your over-the-counter options
Over-the-counter allergy medications are often an effective way to manage allergy symptoms. Many of the long-acting, non-sedative antihistamines are available in pediatric strengths suitable for children under the age of 12. Some of the medications are even available in a nasal spray as an alternative for children who don’t like to swallow pills.
Pollen is an airborne allergen, which makes it nearly impossible to avoid altogether. Nonetheless, you can take steps to reduce your child’s exposure. Even though the weather is finally nice, keep your doors and windows shut to keep pollen out of your home. Next, make sure the filters on your air-conditioning and heating units are fresh and filtering air as it enters your home.
If you have the space, keep outdoor jackets and shoes in a mudroom or outside of your main living space to prevent your family from tracking pollen through your house. Also, have your child shower as soon as they come in from playing outside to wash excess pollen off their skin and hair.
You can also use a nasal irrigation product like a neti pot or saline nasal spray to rinse pollen out of their sinuses.
Talk to a pediatric allergy specialist
If your child has severe allergy symptoms, make an appointment with a pediatric allergy specialist like the team at Valencia Pediatrics. Rainilda Valencia, MD, and her staff offer pediatric allergy testing as well as customized treatments, including allergy shots and EpiPen® prescriptions to protect your child’s health. Call for an appointment or use the online form to request one.
Spring will bloom any day now. Make sure you’re prepared to manage your child’s allergies so that you can provide the attentive care they need at the first sign of a sniffle or watery eyes.