Allergy Season Arrives
Publications >May E-Newsletter> Allergy Season Arrives
Dr. Varuna Tuli
Franciscan Hospital for Children
Spring has finally arrived for those of us in the Boston area and many other parts of New England. Warm sunshine and longer daylight have replaced the cold and darker days of winter, and tulips can be seen popping up around the city. For most of us, these signs of the changing seasons are welcomed with open arms, but for as many as one in five Americans (including millions of children) it only means the nuisance of allergy season has begun.
What is an allergy?
Allergies are a key cause of illness in the United States with nearly 50 million people affected. An allergy causes your immune system to treat whatever you’re allergic to as an invader and releases chemicals to defend against it, causing an array of symptoms that can range from mild to severe. Most people develop allergies as a child, and while any child may become affected, children with a family history of allergies are more likely to become allergic.
What symptoms should I look for?
Children with allergies will often experience repetitive sneezing, a runny nose, nasal congestion, an itchy nose, ears, eyes and throat and watery eyes. These symptoms tend to be most common and may vary by individual.
What are some common allergens?
- Food: Milk, eggs, wheat, nut, fish, shellfish and soy
- Plant and Seasonal: Pollen, poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac
- Animals and Insects: Pets (primarily cats and dogs), bees, wasps
- Other: Medicine/Drugs such as aspirin and penicillin, dust and mold
How can I help?
Of the 50 million people affected by allergies, at least 35 million of them are affected by seasonal allergies. Pollen is a highly common seasonal allergy, with the season typically lasting between early spring and early October. If you think your child may be affected, there are ways to be smart and thoughtful about reducing your child’s exposure to those allergens.
- Keep car and home windows closed
- Use air conditioning to clean, cool and dry the air in your car and home
- Limit your child’s outdoor activity, especially between the hours of 5 and 10am when pollen counts are highest
- Bathe children before bedtime to wash off allergens
- Wash bedding once a week
- Dry clothes and bedding in a dryer, not by hanging them outside where they can easily collect pollen and other allergens
- Wet mop floors and vacuum
- Wash hands, wipe down faces and hair after children have been playing outside
Observe your child’s symptoms and try and keep a diary or notebook of your observations – When are the symptoms triggered? What triggers those symptoms? Are symptoms worse during the daytime or at night?
Over the counter medicine options include Children’s Claritin, Allegra and Benadryl to offer your child relief from their worst symptoms. Eye drops like Zaditor and Alaway can be kept in the refrigerator to offer cooling relief for itchy eyes.
If symptoms persist, seek help from your pediatrician. They may be able to provide you with more information, refer you to an allergy specialist or offer other medication options for relief.
For your reference, the following resources may also be helpful:
When Allergies Attack, Children’s Hospital St. Louis
Children’s Allergies, American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI)
Spring into Allergy Season Parent’s Magazine
Pollencast Weather.com’s Pollen Forecast Tool