Springtime is a fun time for most kids. The sunny days that finally break through after a long winter cooped up in the house make most kids giddy with anticipation. The thought of riding bikes, playing on playgrounds, and just running around outdoors being kids is one that fills both children and parents with joy. For some kids, however, spring can also bring an unwelcome return of allergies and hay fever.
What Is Hay Fever?
Exactly what is hay fever is a common parenting question. Hay fever is the commonly used term for allergic rhinitis. Allergic rhinitis is a specific kind of allergic reaction affecting most the eyes and nose. The most common hay fever symptoms in children are runny nose, or stuffy nose, and sneezing. Many kids also complain of itchy or watery eyes. Younger children might try and articulate a strange tingling or tickle in their throat or mouth.
Like all allergies, hay fever is caused by allergens that trigger a hypersensitive response from the body’s immune system. This response is characterized by the release of histamines to help ward off what the body mistakenly interprets as an infection. These histamines build up in the mucus linings of the boy, particularly in the nose, throat, and sinuses, where they trigger sneezing or itching. Unlike some severe food allergies, hay fever, and most other airborne allergies are generally harmless and disappear on their own once the allergens are present in lower concentrations in the air.
How To Tell What Child Is Allergic To
There are two ways to figure out what a child is allergic to. The first, is simply trial and error along with a small amount of record keeping. The second is to undergo allergy testing with a doctor or allergy specialist.
To find out what a kid is allergic to, parents should observe and log the severity of the child’s symptoms over the course of several days or weeks. On days when the child’s hay fever symptoms seems particularly bad, parents should check their local pollen counts. Pollen counts are typically measured as a part of a city’s or county’s clean air program. Several types of pollen are tracked and on days when kids have bad allergy symptoms, parents should log the pollen counts reported on that day. Over time, it is likely to emerge that the child’s worst hay fever symptoms correspond with high levels of one or more types of pollen.
Once parents know which things kids are allergic to, they can pay attention to pollen forecasts to get an idea of when their child’s symptoms will be at their worst and plan accordingly.
Keep in mind that people are often allergic to more than one specific allergen, so a pattern may not appear immediately. Also, high pollen count, does not necessarily mean highest pollen count, so don’t discount the allergens reported at the number two and number three positions, particularly in spring time when pollen counts are high for many different types of plants.
Treat Child’s Hay Fever Allergies
While allergies are not harmful to the child, they can be very annoying, and in some cases, actually debilitating. Parents should use their judgment in treating allergies to be sure that kids aren’t getting unnecessary medicines or other treatments. Measuring and administering medicine is an important parenting skill for dads and moms alike.
The most common allergy relief comes from over the counter medications at the supermarket or drug store. Always buy a children’s version of allergy medication for kids under age 5 and check the label for older kids who might still be too young for certain allergy medicines. Stick with “pure” or single purpose medications for kids. This avoids having them get unnecessary drugs and chemicals in their body.
So-called mult-symptom drugs are just multiple medicines combined together. The so-called Allergy Plus Sinus Pain Relief medicine, for example, is just an antihistamine and acetaminophen (Tylenol) mixed together. The problem is that if you child is not in pain, they are still getting an unnecessary pain reliever with every dose of allergy medicine. If your child does have sinus pain, treat is separately with a separate dose of acetaminophen.
Non-Drug Allergy Treatment Alternatives
The best hay fever treatment is often to stay indoors with the windows closed. Running a central air conditioner or just the fan attached to the furnace will clean indoor air from allergens as they get run through the furnace filter. (Spring is a good time to change your furnace filter, for this very reason. Be sure to buy one that filters small allergen particles, or you’ll just be blowing them around your house.)
Bad hay fever might indicate the need to do additional laundry of bed sheets and clothing to remove pollen and dust that are deposited there by the body. Hypoallergenic soap like Dreft can be useful.
Keep in mind that the histamines caused by hay fever build up over time in the child’s nose and elsewhere. These histamines are still present once the child comes inside. Even though the body has stopped making histamines, the ones that are already there can still cause hay fever symptoms like sneezing. A nasal flush can sometimes speed the process of clearing out histamines in the nose.