Helping Little Ones Through Allergy Season

Seasonal allergies are hard enough to deal with as adults, but they are even more miserable for babies and small kids. With spring arriving early this year in many parts of the United States, little ones may be experiencing the wrath of pollen, mold, trees, grass, weeds and things that flower a little sooner than normal.

So what’s actually going on with the body when allergens are present? According to BabyCenter.com, “Pollen and mold aren’t actually harmful in any way, but when an allergic child or adult breathes in pollen or mold spores, his body perceives it as a dangerous invader and reacts by releasing histamine and other chemicals. Histamine inflames the nose and airways, and the other chemicals cause the well-known symptoms of hay fever: congestion, runny or itchy nose, scratchy throat, watery or itchy eyes, and itchiness in the ears.”*

And then there is the dreaded mold. It grows everywhere, and it thrives in damp areas and decaying materials like dead leaves, rotted logs, grass, soil, etc. And those are just the outside locations! When it warms up after a period of cold weather, mold and their spores come out to wreak havoc.

It seems like this time of year brings out the itching and sneezing. Although many people suffer from “seasonal” allergies (suffering the worst effects in the Spring or Fall), some individuals suffer from different allergy issues year round, based on geography and other environmental factors.

SYMPTOM GUIDE (click to check symptoms with BabyCenter.com)

How can you tell if your child has seasonal allergies? Some signs can include itchy, watery eyes, excessive sneezing, runny nose, coughing and raspy throat, skin irritation or rash.

Although allergies can’t be prevented, there are some things you can do to ease the symptoms. FIRST AND FOREMOST: check with your family physician if you suspect allergy or other possible ailment. A doctor can correctly test for and diagnose specific triggers and help find the right treatments for your child’s unique issues. Along with a treatment plan from your family physician and/or allergist, you can minimize exposure by:

For inside your home:
– Keep windows closed to keep the outside antagonists from coming indoors.
– Keep the house clean by dusting, sweeping and laundering (especially bed sheets) often.
– Keep chemicals like cleaners, solvents and bug sprays in the basement or garage.
– Do not let people smoke indoors.
– Use a dehumidifier to keep mold from growing.
– Keep pets outside, or keep them out of bedrooms if they are going to be inside.
– Cover pillows and mattresses with special mite-proof covers.
– Forego the feather or pillows – these items make some kids with allergies miserable.

For outside activities:
– Make playtime activities for after 10:00am, as pollen counts are at their highest between 5:00am and 10:00am.
– Remove any plants from your yard that are triggers – certain flowers or trees can make allergies worse. Don’t remove your whole yard! But opt for vegetation that does not aggravate the allergy (a doctor can diagnose which plants are triggers).
– Once playtime is through, change clothes to remove any allergens that have come in from the outside during activity.
– Limit outdoor activities during the most active allergy season – if allergies are worse in the Fall, then raking leaves and jumping in leaf piles in the autumn is not a recommended activity for this time of year.
– Be smart about play time! For example: If your child reacts to flower pollen, a trip to the local arboretum may be tricky. Simply think before you play.

Is your little one already affected? Parents.com** has these tips for soothing your little one’s discomfort:
– Use skin moisturizers or 1 percent hydrocortisone cream for eczema and other allergic rashes.
– Under a doctor’s guidance, try oral antihistamines, like Benadryl, for rapid relief of an older baby’s symptoms. There’s good news for infants suffering from allergies. The Food and Drug Administration has recently approved the prescription antihistamine Zyrtec for the treatment of year-round allergies in infants as young as 6 months old. It’s the first and only antihistamine — over-the-counter or prescription — demonstrated with clinical trials to be safe in infants this young.
– Allergies usually get worse unless exposure to allergens decreases. If you can eliminate baby’s exposure to whatever is causing his reaction for at least six months, his body will essentially forget about it. However, it’s often difficult to identify what’s causing the allergy. You should keep a careful diary of what symptoms occur and when. This may expose a specific pet, article of clothing, food, or room in your house as the culprit that’s causing the allergy.

See your family physician, and be prepared to load up on plenty of TLC this allergy season – your little one (and you!) can get through this!

Note: This article is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness. Medical conditions can only be diagnosed by a physician, and medication should only be dispensed while under a doctor’s guidance.

SOURCES:
*http://www.babycenter.com/0_seasonal-allergies-hay-fever-in-children_66242.bc
** http://www.parents.com/baby/health/allergy/all-about-baby-allergies/
Photo – http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/32/Alcea_rosea2_ies.jpg