At last, summer is here and your little darling wants to play outside! It’s the time for somersaults and chasing butterflies. But here comes your junior explorer back home sneezing away, with a red nose and eyes that itch. Is this a case of seasonal allergies?
Summer is the time for playing outside!
All parents are glad to see their children having fun outside once the warm temperatures return. Children love to run around touching everything to explore their environment and learn more about it. However, this environment may contain substances that trigger allergic reactions. These substances can be seen by the body as invaders; we call them allergens.
Your child may be allergic to the substances he or she breathes: pollen, mold, dust, animal hair, feathers, cigarette smoke, etc. Other products can cause irritation on contact with your child: soaps, tissues, plants (e.g. poison ivy). And some medication and foods can cause an allergic reaction as soon as your child ingests them. In the case of seasonal allergies, these include pollen from trees, bushes, grass and ragweed which, more often than not, causes a problem.
If your children display the following symptoms during the summer period, they may be suffering from seasonal allergies:
- runny nose;
- itchy or tingling sensation in the throat;
- nasal congestion;
- conjunctivitis (lacrimation (excessive tears), red and itchy eyes)
But don’t panic, because, contrary to many children’s infections, seasonal allergies are not contagious.
Seasonal allergies: the tip of the iceberg
Little is still known about the causes of allergies, which are many. Atopy is a hereditary predisposition to allergies that afflict many children. Children with this hypersensitivity can suffer from different allergies or illnesses at various stages in their development. In this context, it is generally recognized that seasonal allergies often go hand in hand with other early childhood diseases, such as:
- food allergies;
The first signs of allergies are often food allergies and eczema that can be seen on nursing infants. A little later in infancy, symptoms of allergic rhinitis (seasonal allergy) can develop.
If your child suffers from asthma or eczema, the symptoms might temporarily worsen during the seasonal allergy period. Sometimes it may be necessary to increase medication when this happens: the child will have to use an asthma inhaler more often, or apply more eczema cream or unguent.
What should I do if my child suffers from an allergy?
The first precautionary step is to avoid the allergen in question. Below are a few tips that will help reduce exposure to pollens:
- Avoid family outings on very windy days, as the airborne pollen concentration will be higher.
- Take advantage of rainy days to play outside, get out your rubber boots! Pollen normally stays on the ground when it rains.
- Try to enjoy outdoor activities early in the morning or late in the evening (there is less pollen in the air).
- Keep doors and windows closed to stop pollen from entering your home and coming into contact with your child.
- While driving, roll up the windows and turn on the air conditioning.
- After outdoor activities, have your child take a bath or shower to remove any pollen on the skin, and then get dressed again with clean clothing.
- Don’t dry clothes outside on the clothesline, as pollen may have settled on them.
- Have your children wash their hands more often, especially when coming in from outdoors.
- When planning an outdoor activity, find out about the pollen count for that day. Choose times when the pollen count is lower.
Even if you take all steps to reduce contact with pollen, there is a good chance that your child will complain of uncomfortable symptoms anyway. In such a case, you may want to take advantage of over-the-counter medication, such as antihistamines. Below are a few recommendations regarding their use for children:
- First get a medical diagnosis from a doctor to ensure that the problem is in fact seasonal allergies, as several of the symptoms can be similar to those of other illnesses.
- Never give prescription medication to your child without first having discussed the problem with your pharmacist.
- Ask your pharmacist to help you choose the best product for your child.
- Also ask your pharmacist to explain the exact dose to be given, as dosage may have to be calculated according to your child’s weight.
- Never administer more medication than what is recommended by the pharmacist of the drug manufacturer.
When should you consult a doctor?
Although using over-the-counter medication can be a great help in reducing seasonal allergy symptoms, it is sometimes just not enough. If this is the case, it may be wise to consult a doctor, who may prescribe medication to better help your child.
What’s more, if seasonal allergies exacerbate other health problems, such as asthma or eczema, your doctor may want to adjust the medication to better control these issues.
If treatment is ineffective, immunotherapy treatment to desensitize your child may be conducted by an allergist. This treatment includes injecting the affected person with increasing doses of the allergic substance over a period of three to five years in order to make the allergic person less sensitive to the cause of the allergy. This treatment is particularly effective in the case of children who are very allergic to pollen, but it must be followed carefully.
You should consult a doctor without delay if your child:
- has trouble breathing;
- has a general skin reaction, such as swelling, red plaques or small bumps;
- displays any other abnormal or alarming symptom.
In conclusion, seasonal allergies among children are fortunately temporary. Symptoms may sometimes be mild, sometimes uncomfortable, both for the children and parents. Not only may they affect your children’s ability to enjoy their summer activities, they may affect school performance when they appear at the end of summer or when school begins. Childhood is a stage of life that passes so quickly, don’t let seasonal allergies stop you from making the most of it!