Spring is here and with that being said so are allergens. There are differences between cold and allergy symptoms and they affect our immune system differently. Here are some key points to seasonal allergies:
- Sneezing, nose and throat itchiness, and eye itchiness plus redness usually signal allergies. Like a cold, allergies produce nasal drainage, but it looks clear and watery. With a cold, mucus drainage is thicker and yellow or green.
- Kids often inherit allergies from Mom or Dad. The catch: They aren’t always allergic to the same things. You inherit the ability to become allergic, not the specific allergen sensitivity.
- Over-the-counter medications manage symptoms well for most children. Long-acting, non-sedating antihistamines like loratadine, fexofenadine and cetirizine (sold under brand names Claritin®, Allegra® and Zyrtec®) come in children’s formulations. They work well for sneezing and itching but do not adequately address stuffiness and drainage. A nasal spray newly available over the counter this season, Nasacort®, handles all four symptoms well. Antihistamine eye drops help with itchiness, but avoid those with redness reducers.
- Continue giving medication throughout the pollen season, even if your child feels better. Give medication, especially nasal spray, at bedtime, not morning. A few nose spray tips: Tilt the head forward. Insert the applicator in right nostril, not too far. Aim out toward the right eye and spray. Advise kids to sniff, not snort. Repeat on the left side. Proper spraying can make the medicine work better and decrease nose bleeds, a possible side effect.
- Avoidance is the best treatment for allergies – tricky when the trigger wafts in the air. But, you can minimize exposure. Grass and weed pollen tend to peak in the morning, so plan outdoor play toward evening when possible. Wearing tight-fitting sunglasses can protect the eyes from pollen. Create a pollen-free zone in your child’s bedroom. Keep the windows shut, shower and wash hair before going to bed after outdoor play. Consider a HEPA filter on central air conditioner units or a personal air filter to cut indoor pollen.
- If avoidance and medications don’t adequately manage symptoms, ask your pediatrician or allergist about allergy immunotherapy. A series of weekly injections over the course of months, followed by maintenance injections for several years, reduces symptom severity. Kids 7 to 9 years old typically understand the process and recognize the benefit.
- Many kids with seasonal allergies also have asthma. Uncontrolled allergies can cause asthma flare-ups, with coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing. Also, kids distracted by constant nose blowing can have trouble focusing in school.
Most student will not be sent home from school do to allergies, if your child shows more symptoms unrelated to allergies, please see a doctor and as always, use hand hygiene as a form of protection.
Have a great April!