Pollen: A Common Childhood Allergy Trigger

Pollen and other seasonal allergies that flare in the spring can make your child feel downright miserable. The bad news is, pollen-allergy symptoms don't just occur in early springtime as the leaves come out on the trees. Depending on your child's sensitivity to specific allergens, he or she may continue to suffer into the late spring from grass pollens and again later in the summer from weed pollens. But by keeping certain factors in mind, you can provide your child with effective seasonal-allergy support.

Pollen counts. While you can't keep an active child exclusively indoors when trees and plants in the environment release their pollens, you may have to limit his or her outdoor playtime on days when pollen counts are high. Staying indoors helps reduce exposure to pollen, particularly on dry, windy days. It can be tough to keep a child who loves to roll around in lush, green grass indoors on a bright, sunny day, but he or she may suffer less if you do so.

Weather websites and weather channels on television track pollen counts and rate them from low to medium to high. Many report when breathing conditions are fair, as weather conditions directly increase or decrease the amount of pollen trees, grasses, and other plants produce. For example, pollen levels are higher during warm weather when there has been little rain. Unfortunately, the higher the pollen count, the more likely your child will suffer allergy symptoms.

Allergen filters. Keep your home's doors and windows closed, particularly during the morning hours when pollen counts tend to be at their highest. This helps limit how much pollen gets inside your home and trapped in the fibers of carpets, draperies, and upholstered furnishings.

Use central air conditioning or window units to filter pollen that still gets in from the air. But be sure to keep the filters clean so that you don't recycle pollen back into the air. If your child experiences severe flareups, consider using a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter instead. Avoid the use of fans that blow pollen around inside a room.

Allergy medications. Even if your child doesn't have to take daily allergy medication, it may help them to take an allergy medicine before going outside. Allergy medicines, including antihistamines and decongestants, help control symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, itchy throat, and watery eyes.

Over-the-counter medications may offer relief if your child's allergy symptoms are mild. But for a more severe allergy, he or she may need a steroidal nasal spray or other prescription-strength drugs. In some cases, your child's symptoms may be so bad that he or she needs to get allergy shots to build up an immune defense against the allergen.

It's important to begin giving your child prescription allergy medications a few weeks before symptoms normally appear. You also may have to be more cautious following a mild winter since warmer-than-normal temperatures can cause trees to release their pollen early.

Clothes and shoes. When your child comes back inside after playing outdoors, taking a shower and changing clothes removes pollen that can trigger symptoms. Little allergy sufferers also should wash their face and hands to help reduce pollen exposure when coming in from recess at school. Before your child gets into bed at night, they can bathe and wash their hair tp get rid of pollen that has accumulated on the hair and skin throughout the day.

You also should instruct your child and other family members to wipe their shoes on the doormat and remove them upon entering. Provide an area just inside the door where everyone can hang their hats, sweaters, and jackets so as not to drag pollen into the living space or spread it to other clothing hanging in a closet.

Contact an organization like Hinsdale Asthma & Allergy Center for more information about how best to manage allergen exposure.