Ahh, the sounds of spring: Birds chirping, lawn mowers humming, kids outside playing—and sneezing. Along with April showers and May flowers come spring allergies, commonly called hay fever. An estimated 20 percent of Americans suffer from seasonal allergies.
Allergic reactions to trees begin in the spring, followed by grass into the summer. Ragweed reactions occur into the fall.
The good news is there are ways you can stay comfortable amidst the pollen.
5 Ways to Avoid the Symptoms
Allergy symptoms may range from bothersome itching in the nose, mouth and eyes, to sneezing, stuffy nose, runny nose, and tearing eyes. Avoiding the allergen is the best prevention, but unfortunately, that’s not always possible. Check out these ways to lessen the symptoms and keep you comfortable:
- Limit outdoor activities between 5-10 a.m. when pollen counts tend to be the highest.
- Keep windows closed at home and in the car to keep the pollen out.
- Take a shower before bed to remove any pollen you may carry on your body and hair.
- Use a mask when mowing or doing lawn care.
- Take over-the-counter steroid nasal sprays (Flonase, Nasacort) or non-sedating antihistamines (Claritin, Zyrtec, Allegra) to decrease symptoms. (See the medication information for children below). If your symptoms don’t improve, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss other ways you can treat your allergies.
Kids: Is it Seasonal Allergies or a Cold?
While you may have your own allergies under control, your children may be suffering too. Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between allergies and colds. Here are things to look for to help you make the call:
Your child's age
Babies and toddlers rarely have seasonal allergies. Just like adults, they need several seasons of exposure to the environment before they develop symptoms. This is akin to an adult who moves to a new climate and develops allergies to the local fauna and flora after a few years.
If your child complains of an itchy nose and eyes or is persistently rubbing the nose and eyes, he or she likely is responding to an allergen.
Recurrent sneezing is very typical for an allergy. Colds will often have lots of sneezing at the beginning of the illness, soon replaced by a runny or stuffy nose and cough.
Some children with allergies who repeatedly rub their nose with their palm will develop a crease at the end of their nose—a motion called an “allergic salute.”
Children with allergies can have dark puffy circles in the under-eye area, termed allergic shiners. The under-eye area may also have a crease called an allergic pleat.
Response to Medication
Typical over-the-counter antihistamines will give minimal relief to cold symptoms but may significantly improve allergy symptoms. Check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist about the medication options for children.
Finally, consider a visit with your child’s healthcare provider. He or she will take a history and perform a physical examination, make a diagnosis, and then formulate a plan to best treat your child’s symptoms. Your healthcare provider can also give you educational materials and can recommend further testing for allergies or specialty referral when necessary.