Ah, springtime. The season for newness. The season for growth. The season for…allergies. While everyone loves seeing all the beauty of spring blossoms, nobody enjoys the sneezing, sniffling, and itchy, watery eyes that the blooming brings—especially kids. As your children get the urge to be outdoors for playtime in the coming days, you’ll want to know the best ways to help them combat spring allergies. We sought the expertise of a medical professional to help you, as parents, know how to armor up against the allergy antagonist. Check out what Dr. Michael Norvell with The Allergy, Asthma & Sinus Center had to say in his brief Q & A interview with The Gardner School.
TGS: What are the basic symptoms of spring allergies a parent might notice their child experiencing?
Dr. Norvell: The basic symptoms of spring allergies are going to involve three areas, for the most part—the nose, eyes, and lungs. The systems involved can occur independently, but, especially in patients with asthma, they often occur together. Parents might notice their children experiencing sneezing, congestion, sinus drainage, or even a runny nose. A child might complain of itchy, watery eyes. Asthma patients, especially, might experience chest tightness, coughing, and wheezing. Symptoms tend to worsen when children are outdoors but might linger or persist throughout the entire day. The culprit allergens in the spring months are tree and grass pollen.
TGS: How can you tell the difference between spring allergies and a cold for children?
Dr. Norvell: Trying to tell the difference between a cold and allergies can be difficult. Something to look for is whether other members of the family are sick. Cold viruses are often passed through the family. Cold viruses might not respond as strongly to antihistamines as allergies will. Allergies will typically have worse symptoms outdoors, while the symptoms of a child with a cold will be just as bad indoors. If a child is in preschool, and several students are sick, odds are your child will also catch the bug. A cold will typically run its course within a couple of weeks, while spring allergies will persist for months. If a child has nasal and eye symptoms every spring when the trees start to bloom, odds are he or she has allergies. There’s no perfect determinant for deciding whether a child has a cold or allergies. Speaking with a doctor when symptoms persist can be helpful.
TGS: At what point should a parent consider setting up an appointment for their child to see an allergy specialist?
Dr. Norvell: Good question. I always try and tell parents what I would do if I was in their shoes. If you can take over the counter medication, and your symptoms are controlled, I do not think you need to see an allergist. If those medications do not give your child adequate control of his or her symptoms, I would then make an appointment to see an allergist for an evaluation and consideration of immunotherapy. Immunotherapy has an established track record and is safe and effective for children with spring allergies.
TGS: Is there any non-medical advice you could offer parents regarding spring allergies?
Dr. Norvell: One thing I would recommend is to not open the windows in the house. It’s tempting to see the weather improving or temperatures rising and choose to open the windows of the house, but this can cause your child’s allergies to worsen, as you are inviting the allergens into the closed environment of your home. Washing hands after playing outside isn’t enough to keep allergens outdoors. Instead, I would recommend that a child take a shower and change clothes as the best way to keep those outdoor allergies from moving inside your home. Many parents also ask about air purifiers. These can be helpful for pollen allergies, however, if a child has allergies to allergens such as molds or dust as well, air purifiers might not be as effective.