May flowers often aren’t the only thing blooming after April showers. Springtime allergens from tree pollen, grasses and weeds can wreak havoc on children’s allergies causing severe allergy symptoms.
“Interestingly, it’s a misconception that flowers cause springtime allergens,” said Dr. Lisa Sammon, a pediatric allergist and immunologist at Akron Children’s Hospital. “Flowers don’t release pollen in the air because it’s heavy and sticky. So while people can be sensitive to their smell, they cannot be allergic to flowers. The pollen from trees, grass and weeds is airborne, however, and can travel long distances and cause severe allergy symptoms.”
Typical springtime allergy symptoms include itchy, runny nose, itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, scratchy throat, and sometimes a post-nasal drip and cough.
The springtime allergy season runs from as early as March through the beginning of June, but it can vary. A mild winter can extend pollination periods. Tree pollen tends to peak in early spring and grass peaks in late spring. With proper precautions and treatment, your child can be ready for an endless spring and summer of allergy-free fun.
Ways to avoid allergens
As with many medical conditions, the best way to deal with springtime allergies is to prevent them from becoming a problem in the first place. Dr. Sammon suggests the following:
- Awareness. See an allergist to get formal testing and confirm you do indeed have springtime allergies and what specifically you need to avoid.
- Remove allergen sources in your home. Keep your home and car windows closed to help prevent pollen from entering. Also, be sure to wash bedding, floors and vacuum upholstered furniture and curtains as often as possible. Using a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter can trap and filter household allergens.
- Avoid bringing pollen indoors. Remove and put your shoes and coat in a designated area so you don’t spread pollen throughout your home. Wash your hair before getting into bed each night. If you have pets that spend time outdoors, use a damp towel to remove pollen from their coats daily.
- Watch pollen counts. At pollen.com, you can enter your city or zip code to get a pollen forecast in your area. Keep your child indoors when the count is high, which often is in the early morning and mid-afternoon.
Relief with medication
Your child’s doctor may recommend or prescribe prescription or over-the-counter medicines to relieve allergy symptoms.
- Antihistamines block histamine, a trigger of allergic swelling. Antihistamines, such as Children’s Zyrtec or Claritin, treat seasonal and indoor allergies and can ease sneezing, itching, runny nose and hives. They come in pills, liquids, melting tablets or nasal sprays.
- Nasal corticosteroids are sprays that reduce the swelling that causes a stuffy, runny and itchy nose. Examples include Children’s Flonase or Rhinocort.
- Nasal saline rinses can be used prior to nasal sprays. Use a Neti pot or a squeeze bottle to rinse and lessen your child’s reactions to airborne allergens, as recommended by your child’s doctor.
- Leukotriene blockers are medications that include Montelukast or Singulair and block additional inflammatory proteins in allergic reactions. These reduce nasal symptoms and cough from allergies.
“For mild allergy symptoms that aren’t affecting your child’s quality of life, we typically recommend antihistamines as needed,” said Dr. Sammon. “For progressive symptoms, however, nasal corticosteroid sprays are the first line of treatment to reduce swelling and best control allergy symptoms over time.”
Your child’s allergist may recommend allergy shots if treatment isn’t effective and the allergies are affecting your child’s quality of life.
Allergy shots can greatly decrease the severity of your child’s reaction to an allergen. Also referred to as immunotherapy, these shots actually contain a little bit of the allergen, which over the course of months or years, helps teach the body how to handle it better.
The shots therapy requires frequent office visits over 3 to 5 years, but can greatly improve a child’s quality of life by reducing symptoms and medications kids have to be dependent on per year.
If your pediatrician thinks your child might have an allergy, she will refer you to a pediatric allergist. These physicians have the same medical background as a pediatrician, but have received additional training in pediatric allergy and immunology.
“It’s important to make an appointment with an allergist so your child can have formal allergy testing done,” said Dr. Sammon. “You’ll want to get your child tested to find out exactly what is causing her trouble so we can appropriately treat it.”
To schedule an appointment with Akron Children’s Center for Allergy and Immunology, contact your child’s pediatrician or call 330-543-0140.