The term seasonal allergies refers to allergies that are found outdoors during only part of the year as in the case of mold and tree, weed, or grass pollen. When a child starts displaying symptoms of an allergy, it is due to the IgE antibody that the body produces in reaction to a specific allergen. This IgE antibody attaches to certain immune cells such as mast cells that are found in the mouth, nose, and bronchial tubes. These mast cells then release histamine among other things that produce allergy symptoms. These symptoms include congestion, itchy and watery eyes, sneezing, etc. In some cases, allergies can even bring on an asthma attack in a susceptible patient. Seasonal allergies can be very uncomfortable and disruptive to the life of a young child, but there are steps that a parent or caregiver can take to prevent and treat the symptoms to an extent.
Identify the allergens
The first step in treating a seasonal allergy is to find out exactly what allergens are to blame. This may be determined with a skin test or a blood test that will pinpoint the exact allergens that trigger a reaction.
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that the best way to treat seasonal allergies is to prevent exposure to them in the first place. One useful tool in preventing exposure is to keep abreast of the local pollen count. This information is often found anywhere that the local weather is displayed whether it is somewhere online or in a newspaper. In addition the website for the National Allergy Bureau will list pollen and mold levels. On days that there is a high pollen count, it is important to limit time spent outdoors and to also administer an antihistamine when going outdoors. In addition, depending on the child’s allergies, raking leaves with an affected child in the fall could be a problem due to outdoor mold. According to the Nemours Foundation, pollen counts tend to be higher in the morning and on dry, warm, and windy days and they tend to be lower when it is wet and cold.
Clean away allergens
During pollen or mold season, it is important for a child to immediately shower or bathe and then put on fresh clothes after spending a length of time outdoors. Shoes should be left right next to the front door or even in the garage to limit the amount of allergens tracked into the house. A personal HEPA filter may be used in the bedroom of any affected individuals to try and keep the indoor air clean. Mayo Clinic also recommends vacuuming regularly with a vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter.
Prevent the allergens from coming inside
To keep the allergens outside where they belong, the air conditioning should be used and windows should be kept shut, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. This may be difficult when the weather is so nice outside, but opening the windows will allow allergens in, whether in the car or house. It is also important not to hang clothes to dry outside during pollen season as the pollen may stick to the drying clothes.
There are now many different options for prescription and over the counter medications used to treat seasonal allergy symptoms. Antihistamines will help to relieve nasal and eye symptoms.
Some medications are oral and are used where there are multiple symptoms such as itchy eyes in addition to a runny nose. Oral medications such as older antihistamines like Benadryl will likely cause a child to become sleepy, but newer antihistamines like loratidine (Claritin), fexofenadine (Allegra), and cetirizine (Zyrtec) will relieve symptoms without the drowsiness.
If only the eyes are affected, then eye drops might be a better form of treatment. Zaditor or Allaway eye drops both contain the drug Ketotifen and may be used in children that are three and older. Pataday is a prescription eye drop that has been approved for children two and older.
In addition, if there are only nasal symptoms, then a nasal spray may be used. Veramyst nasal spray may be used in children two or older, Nasonex nasal spray may be used in children three and older, and Nasalcrom nasal spray is approved for children as young as two.
Seasonal allergy symptoms may also be treated with a decongestant, but this is not recommended in children younger than two. A physician should be consulted before considering a decongestant for a young child. There are many other options for oral antihistamines, eye drops, and nasal sprays available and it would be wise to speak with a doctor or pharmacist to help choose the right medication for the young child in question.
If the child’s allergy symptoms seem to start in the early spring and go all the way through the fall, if he or she does not respond well to medication, or if there are other concerns, then immunotherapy or allergy shots may be considered depending on the age of the child. Immunotherapy will begin with an injection of a low amount of the allergen(s) that causes a reaction. The amount of allergen(s) in the injection will be gradually increased and the frequency of shots may be as often as twice a week until a certain amount of allergen is administered in what is called the maintenance dose is reached. Once on the maintenance dose, the shots will be given only once or twice a month depending on if it is allergy season or not. Allergy shots are typically continued for three to five years in which time the child should see an improvement in symptoms.
One natural cure is to use a saline eye drop or nasal spray to wash out some of the allergens. According to WebMD, there are several homeopathic remedies that show some promise in treating seasonal allergy symptoms. The European herb butterbur is a natural cure that has proven to be just as effective as a certain antihistamine in a study that was published in the British Medical Journal. Some naturopathic doctors also feel that a flavonoid compound called quercetin and grape seed extract can help to relieve symptoms associated with seasonal allergies. These nutrients are found naturally in certain foods.
If the child will eat hot, spicy foods, they may be a good addition to the diet during allergy season as the spice will help to thin the mucous, thus helping to clean the nasal passages. Some foods are linked to certain seasonal allergies and should be avoided during peak pollen time. An example of this phenomenon is that children that suffer from a weed pollen allergy should try to avoid eating sunflower seed, bananas, chamomile, cucumber, and anything containing Echinacea to avoid exacerbating symptoms.
All conventional and homeopathic remedies should be discussed with a medical professional before using to ensure that the best treatment option is chosen. No medications or treatments should ever be combined without first checking with a health care professional.
Seasonal allergies can be difficult for an adult to handle; let alone a young child. It is important for parents and caregivers to do everything possible to identify the allergens triggering a reaction, to limit exposure to allergens, and to treat the symptoms. All questions and concerns regarding a child’s health should be brought to a medical professional.