Be prepared for runny noses and itchy eyes!
Seasonal allergies getting your child down? Join the club! Allergies are a reaction that begins in the immune system, says John Seyerle, M.D., an allergist with Allergy & Asthma Care, Inc. Seyerle says that while our immune systems are designed to protect us from infection, an allergic reaction is triggered when the immune system mistakes a substance — like pollen or mold — for something harmful.
There are three ways to treat allergies, according to Seyerle:
Avoid exposure to the allergen
Wear hats and sunglasses when the pollen count is high; wash hands after playing.
Anti-histamines, eye drops and nasal sprays may be helpful.
Visit to the allergist
When over-the-counter meds don’t solve your child’s allergy problem, see your pediatrician. He’ll want to know your child’s symptoms like itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, wheezing, or breathing trouble with exercise or vigorous play.
If your child is 4 or older and sniffles and sputters throughout the first few weeks of spring, an allergy to a specific pollen is probably to blame. Children typically have a “hay fever” season with symptoms rising along with increased levels of outdoor pollen related to ragweed, grass, weeds and trees as well as mold spores.
But life indoors can just as easily trigger allergies. Some children are bothered by dust mites — microscopic spider-like creatures that nestle where there’s food for them (flakes of human skin!). Some kids react to pet dander with cats and dogs, but guinea pigs, gerbils, rabbits and other pets can trigger allergies, too.
If you can easily identify what triggers your child’s symptoms, great! You can strive to prevent exposure and be prepared for reactions when they strike.
“Find out what you are allergic to, avoid it, and have a plan for when you are exposed,” says Seyerle.
But if you’re not sure what’s triggering your child’s reactions, it may be time to do some testing. With testing, the doctor determines what to test then places a small amount of the substance on your child’s arm. Fifteen minutes later, if a small, red, raised area appears, you’ve found what your child’s allergic to. Of course that sounds relatively easy, when in fact it often is not. Allergies to food present a longer, lengthier testing process.
Allergy Shots? Oh no!
When allergies are extremely difficult to manage, your doctor may suggest immunotherapy for your child. By injecting small amounts of the allergen into your child’s body on a regular basis, and at increased doses, his body will eventually grow used to the allergen and the immune system will learn not to trigger a reaction. A weekly “build-up” phase will eventually transition into injections that happen about every four weeks.
“Immunotherapy can improve symptoms by 80 percent,” says Seyerle, adding that the process can also reduce your child’s chances of developing new allergies or asthma. Safe for children as young as 4 year old,“It’s not so much about treating the symptoms, as it is about protecting your child from future complications.”