If your child is affected by pollen allergies, you know the season of sneezing and itchy eyes is coming soon. The waves of pollen start in early spring when trees begin to flower, continue through late spring and the hot summer months with grass pollen, and come back in the fall with ragweed.
Ashwini P. Reddy, MD, an allergy specialist with the Allergy Program at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), offers suggestions for limiting your child’s exposure to pollen and managing uncomfortable allergy symptoms.
Before pollen season
- If your child has allergies to indoor irritants, such as dust mites, in addition to pollen allergies, make sure the indoor allergies are under control before the pollen season begins.
- Check window seals to see that they aren’t letting in drafts.
- Make sure cooling options, such as fans and air conditioners, are available so you don’t need to open the windows when the warm weather arrives.
- Review your family's plan to deal with allergy symptoms. If you don't know the best way to respond to your child's symptoms, consult your child’s allergist.
- If your child experienced allergies last year but you aren’t sure of the cause, you might consider testing before pollen season begins so you know which types of pollen trigger your child’s symptoms.
- Make sure you have allergy medication on hand and that it is not beyond the expiration date.
- If your child has strong allergic reactions to tree pollen, start nasal sprays or oral medications a week before the beginning of the pollen season.
- If your child has severe asthma triggered by pollen, your doctor may advise you to start a controller medication before pollen season begins.
During the pollen season
- Use medications consistently. Some medications don’t work unless your child takes them every day.
- Keep windows closed. Cool your home with fans or air conditioning.
- Check the forecast for pollen levels and limit outdoor activities when pollen counts are highest.
- Have your child change clothes and wash off as soon as they come inside. Have other family members do the same to limit the amount of pollen coming into the house.
- Dry clothes in the dryer or hang them inside. It's important not to hang clothes outside where they can get covered in pollen dust.
- Wipe down pets when they come in from outdoors. If your child experiences allergic reactions to a pet only in the spring, summer or fall, it’s likely because of pollen and not a pet allergy.
- Clean floors, window sills, and other surfaces often. Wipe with a damp cloth or use a vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
- Have flare medications on hand. Talk with your child’s doctor if normal doses of medication do not control strong allergy symptoms.
- Consider a sinus rinse to remove pollen from an older child’s nose. (A sinus rinse can be difficult to give to a young child.)
- Note that air purifiers, while they can help maintain a clean bedroom for a child with a pet allergy, are not much help with pollen allergies.
After the pollen season
If you are considering allergy shots for a child with pollen allergies, the best time to start them is after the pollen season ends. Allergy shots begin with small doses of the substance that triggers the allergy, gradually building up with repeated injections to doses large enough to prevent allergic responses. This takes time, and it’s best to have the series of injections when your child is not affected by airborne pollen. Talk with your allergist to find out if allergy shots might help your child, and when would be the best time to start.
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