Spring is just around the corner. It’s a time when flowers bloom, pollen is in the air, and millions of Americans are reaching for tissues to wipe their watery eyes and runny noses.
Up to 40 percent of children in the United States suffer from seasonal allergies. But how do you as a parent know if your child has an allergy as opposed to a cold? And what should you do if you suspect the former?
Seasonal vs. Perennial Allergies
Seasonal allergies occur mainly during periods of high pollen count from plants, weeds, grasses, and trees. Usually, tree pollen is most prevalent early in the spring, and pollen from grass is present in late spring and early summer. Ragweed allergies tend to flare up in mid-August through September, though it varies in different regions of the country.
The obvious signs of seasonal allergies are that your child will have repetitive sneezing, mucus that is clear and thin, and perhaps an itchy nose, ears, eyes, or throat. There’s no fever associated with allergies, so that would rule out a cold or flu. With year-round perennial allergies, your child tends to have more nasal blockage and congestion. Kids will also have post-nasal drip, which is when mucus drips down the back of the throat. That cause them to clear their throats more often.
What to Do If You Suspect Your Child Has Seasonal Allergies
The best thing to do is keep track of when your child’s symptoms are triggered, and by what, so you can provide the information to the pediatrician. The doctor can then decide whether you should take your child to an allergist.
An allergist can look at your child’s symptoms, perform a physical exam and maybe even do skin testing. Skin testing involves putting small amounts of allergens on the skin, or just below it, and looking for a reaction to detect what your child is allergic to. Then you’ll know, and can avoid some triggers.
Treating your child’s allergies is important because there are a lot of problems related to congestion. It can make it difficult for your child to sleep well, which leads to fatigue, poor concentration at school, and learning problems. Also, because a child’s bones and teeth are still developing, chronic mouth breathing due to allergy-causing congestion can cause teeth to come in at an improper angle.
In addition, children with allergies are more susceptible to ear and sinus infections. And if they have asthma, untreated allergies can worsen their condition.
Although there are many over-the-counter medications to treat allergies – including antihistamines – you shouldn’t use them to relieve your child’s symptoms without consulting your pediatrician or allergist first. The allergist may prescribe anti-inflammatory nasal steroid or allergy shots instead, depending on the severity of your child’s condition.
On your part, there are some simple steps you can take to control your child’s seasonal allergies:
- Keep windows and doors closed during pollen season.
- Don’t hang clothes or bed sheets to dry outside to avoid trapping pollen; use a dryer.
- Use the air conditioner to decrease household humidity and keep pollen out.
- Repair any water leaks to prevent mold.
Children’s Health Care of Massachusetts (CHC Mass) was the nation’s first community health center to open its doors in Boston, providing health services for low and moderate-income people in the inner-city areas, and isolated rural communities. Child-centered and family-focused, Child’s Health Care of Massachusetts is your family’s partner in health providing compassionate and personalized care for your whole child.
Contact The CHC location nearest you for information about how you can partner with CHC to help your child achieve the healthiest childhood possible.