Kids and Adults: Survive Spring Allergy Season

Take preventive measures to minimize misery

Spring weeds and allergies

We all love to see trees, grasses and flowers start to flourish in spring. But that beauty can mean the beginning of months of misery for allergy sufferers, grown-ups and kids alike.

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If you have allergies, your body releases histamine when you inhale plant pollens. This triggers the sneezes, runny noses and itchy eyes of allergic rhinitis, or hay fever. Hay fever symptoms tend to be worse on dry, warm, windy days, when pollens waft on the breeze and into sensitive noses.

Some sources of relief, including antihistamines are available over the counter. If your allergies are so bothersome that over-the-counter options don’t help, see an allergist for treatment options.

Curb your allergies

You can take steps to curb your allergies with or without medications. Use these tips to stay sneeze-free this spring and summer.

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  • Keep your windows closed and use air conditioning if you are allergic to pollen. Don’t use fans, which stir up dust. When you’re driving, set the AC to recirculate air.
  • Filter the air. Clean air conditioning vents regularly and use a high-efficiency particulate air filter (HEPA) if you have a forced-air furnace. Clean air filters frequently and air ducts at least once a year. Install dehumidifiers in basements and other areas of the house where mold may collect; clean these devices every week. Air out damp clothes and shoes (in the house) before storing.
  • Avoid wooded areas or gardens as much as possible. You can still admire nature — just from a little farther away. Wear a mask (such as an inexpensive painter’s mask) if you must mow the lawn or work in a garden.
  • Stay indoors as much as possible on hot, dry, windy days when pollen counts are high. Stay inside between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., when outdoor pollen counts usually run their highest.
  • Take a shower after outdoor activities to wash off pollen that may have accumulated.

Kids and allergies

If your kids have allergies, all the above tips apply for them, too. But if you’re not sure your child does have an allergy, pediatric allergist Brian Schroer, MD, says signs to look for include:

  • Stuffiness and runny nose
  • Sneezing and itching
  • Cough that’s worse at night and in the morning, the result of a runny nose draining into the throat

“Some kids with mild allergy symptoms may respond very to over-the-counter, long acting non-sedating antihistamines,” says Dr. Schroer. “Look for loratadine, tyrosine and fexofenadine, all of which come in kids’ formulations and are indicated down to very young ages.”

Dr. Schroer says if over-the-counter medications don’t work for your kids, talk to your pediatrician.

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