The sun is shining, the flowers are in bloom, aaaand your child can't stop sneezing. That's right, it's spring again! Although we're thrilled that winter is coming to a close, nothing puts a damper on warm weather faster than allergies. Since we know this (all too well *sniff, sniff*), we've made a little list of ways to spot possible allergy symptoms sprouting up in your child (as well as a few ways to keep those springtime sniffles to a minimum.)
Common Spring Allergens
Every season has its biggest allergy offenders, spring's being flower and tree pollen, mold and fungi, and dust (especially when clearing out those hard to reach places during spring cleaning). Tree pollen is at its highest during March and May, so patients should keep an eye on the pollen count and expect allergies to worsen on days when the count is high. Flowers are also a trigger, especially in April as they begin to bloom, releasing pollen into the air. June and July bring an increase in grass pollen, while August gives rise to mold spores and ragweed. Not only this, but spring allergens in general are on the rise.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, "There are several speculations about this increase [in allergies], including climate changes and increased allergy awareness. Studies have also shown pollen counts are gradually increasing. Even if you've never had allergies in the past, you can develop them at any time."
Being aware of what triggers your child's allergies (and what time of year they're most triggered) can help you to build a strategy to minimize allergy induced discomfort and keep spring allergies under control.
When to Suspect An Environmental Allergy in Your Child
Do you suspect your child is being affected by environmental allergies? Don't panic. Allergies are actually pretty common, with about 40% of children developing them. The likelihood of your child developing allergies increases 30-50% if one parent also has alergies, and 60-80% if both parents do.
Parents should be on the look out for symptoms such as green or yellow mucus, coughing, sneezing, itchy, watery eyes, and so on. Allergy symptoms can resemble those of the common cold, but if they persist or occur seasonally year after year, parents should consider taking their children to see their primary care provider who can determine the cause of the symptoms, help develop a treatment plan, and if needed, refer the patient for allergy testing. (And luckily for our patients, this is easier than ever because Briarpatch Pediatrics has Dr. Bloom, an on staff pediatric allergist.)
How to Start an Allergy Management Plan
1. Be proactive. Its best to begin medicating two weeks prior to spring allergy season, which can begin as early as February and generally lasts through May. Common over-the-counter medications for allergies include Allegra, Benadryl, Claratin, and Zyrtec. Consult your pediatrician before starting your child on any new allergy medication, especially for children under six years of age. Keep in mind that some allergy medications can cause drowsiness, and your doctor can let you know which is best for your child and advise you on proper dosage.
2. Be consistent. If your child is taking medication for allergies, make sure that you are consistent with administering it, even on days when he or she is not having symptoms. Like most medications, those given for allergies work best when taken regularly, and skipping a day can decrease their overall effectiveness.
3. Know the triggers. If your child's allergy symptoms persist over time, its best to ask your doctor about allergy testing. An allergist can determine what allergens are triggering him or her and help parents to come up with an allergy management plan. To book an appointment with Dr. Bloom, you can call our office at (508) 833-0269, or send a message through MyChart. Keep in mind that allergy appointments book up fast so there may be a wait for testing, but we're happy to get your child scheduled!
4. Strategize. Though we wish there was a magic cure all for allergies, we unfortunately haven't found it yet. :( However, it is possible to come up with a plan to minimize your child's discomfort. At times, the best treatment is simply to avoid the things that trigger him or her (even though it may be inconvenient). For example, if your child is allergic to tree pollen, check the pollen count online before going out. If the count is high on a given day, skip the park in favor of an indoor activity. Even with medication, parents should be aware that symptoms may still arise.
5. Take serious symptoms seriously. Although you may expect itchy eyes or a scratchy throat, spring allergies can become dangerous when the lungs are concerned. According to Allergist, coughing, wheezing, and trouble breathing could indicate that asthma is a symptom of your child's allergy, with "an estimated 75 to 85 percent of asthma sufferers hav[ing] at least one allergy." If your child is having any trouble breathing, don't hesitate to call the doctor; they will direct you on next steps based on the severity of your child's symptoms.
Briarpatch Pediatrics is here to help with all of your pediatric allergy concerns, and we encourage parents to call no matter how minor the symptoms if you feel help is needed in managing your child's allergy symptoms. Here's hoping for a (relatively) allergy free spring. Let the warm weather begin!