The odds are, your family is probably ready for the warmer, sunny days that come with spring in our area. But what about the spring allergies that also come along for the ride?
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, as many as 60 million Americans experience seasonal allergies. While not everyone experiences the seasonal allergies specific to spring, they are common.
And here in Tennessee, they’re particularly common! As spring days begin, pollen begins to spread, which causes those familiar achoos, itchy eyes and a number of other unpleasant symptoms.
If your child has spring allergies, what can you do to make the season less miserable this year? Being proactive is the name of the game.
“If your child experienced seasonal allergy symptoms last spring or even for the last several years, have a conversation with your doctor now,” says Tarebiye Pela, MD, pediatrician with West Tennessee Medical Group in Jackson. “In many cases, you can take steps to help prevent allergy symptoms altogether or to at least limit the effects of spring allergies.”
The Causes of Spring Allergies
An allergic reaction of any kind is caused by a reaction to a specific allergen. If your child experiences spring allergy symptoms, it may be caused by multiple allergens common during this time of year.
Because seasonal allergies are dependent on exposure to a type of pollen, the onset of spring allergies can vary. That’s because flowers, trees, and grasses don’t always start blooming at the same time each year.
In general, spring allergies may crop up at any time between February and the beginning of summer as new plants blossom. In early spring, tree pollen is the most common allergen, while in late spring, grass pollen may be to blame for symptoms. (Makes sense, right? All those trees with colorful blossoms are beautiful, but sneeze-worthy!)
Is My Child Experiencing Spring Allergies?
Spring allergies in kids are associated with a range of symptoms. When your child comes in contact with an allergen like tree pollen in the air, it causes the immune system to respond to fight it off. He or she may experience:
- Itchy eyes, nose or roof of the mouth
- Nasal congestion
- Persistent throat clearing
- Runny nose with clear drainage
- Watery eyes
If your child has asthma, he or she may also experience asthma flare-ups while exposed to spring allergens. If you aren’t sure whether your child’s symptoms are related to allergies, it’s a good idea to check in with your pediatrician or primary care provider.
A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Spring Allergies
If you’ve experienced seasonal allergies yourself, you likely recognize that it’s nearly impossible to completely avoid them. But the good news is—you can take steps to help limit your child’s symptoms in many cases.
- Check in with your child’s medical provider. Describe your child’s symptoms and determine whether seasonal allergies are likely to blame. Your child’s pediatrician may recommend allergy testing to confirm what allergens he or she reacts to. A medical provider can also advise about whether taking a preventive daily dose of an antihistamine might be helpful for your child.
- Watch the pollen count. This will be particularly helpful if you know the types of pollen your child is allergic to, but can be beneficial regardless. Most weather apps contain an allergen section that identifies the daily pollen count, which is how much of the allergen will be in the air that day. If it’s a high pollen day, indoor activities may be best.
- Keep the doors and windows shut. While it’s a natural reaction to want to fling open the windows and let the outdoor air in when the temperature is pleasant, it’s not the best strategy if allergens are abundant. Windows and doors can both allow tree and grass pollen into the house.
- Leave the outside outside. What do we mean? Well, when your family comes inside after being outside, you’re probably bringing pollen with you. It can make its way inside on shoes, clothing, and even hair. It’s a good idea to set up a spot near the door where shoes can be removed and left behind, so that pollen isn’t tracked across your floors. If your child spends time playing outside, a shower afterward can be helpful, since it removes any lingering allergens.
- Change the air filters. To get rid of any allergens that may make their way indoors, be sure you’re regularly changing out the HVAC filters. For frequent allergy sufferers, specialized air filters meant to clear the air of allergens may be beneficial—look for one that’s labeled as CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly.
When Spring Allergies Strike
If your best preventive strategies don’t help and your child is affected by spring allergies, talk with a medical provider about treatment options.
In many cases, common over-the-counter medications can help alleviate symptoms like itchy eyes or a runny nose. Many prescription medications are also available, including oral medications, eye drops and nasal sprays.
If these medications don’t help or your child’s spring allergies are particularly bothersome, your provider may recommend seeing an allergist for further treatment like immunotherapy.
West Tennessee Medical Group Primary Care specializes in pediatric care. Schedule an appointment with Tarebiye Pela, MD.