65398.jpegAccording to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation, allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the US. In fact, 14 million children were diagnosed with seasonal allergic rhinitis in 2021. This is an all-too-common ailment that many parents are unaware of how to fight against.

Our team at Beittel-Becker Pediatric Associates has been caring for the families of Lancaster, PA, since 1977. We've seen children with allergy symptoms ranging from a simple runny nose to far more severe conditions.

With this experience comes the knowledge of how to best navigate spring allergies with your children at home. That's why we've put together this guide to help you understand the best strategies for getting through this allergy season unscathed.

Request An Appointment

What Are Seasonal Allergies In Children?

Seasonal allergies emerge during certain times of the year, primarily during spring and early summer, when the natural world awakens and disperses pollen into the air. Allergic rhinitis, colloquially termed hay fever, is characterized by a range of symptoms, including a runny nose, nasal congestion, itchy, watery eyes, and sneezing. Despite the name, hay fever doesn't involve a fever and isn't caused by hay. Instead, it's the immune system's exaggerated response to outdoor allergens like tree pollen, grass pollen, and mold spores.

Common Triggers of Seasonal Allergies

The primary culprits behind seasonal allergies include:

  • Tree Pollen: One of the first signs that allergy season has started, tree pollen is a potent allergen that can cause severe reactions.
  • Grass Pollen: Following tree pollen, grass pollen takes over in late spring and early summer and contributes to allergic symptoms.
  • Mold Spores: Found both indoors and outdoors, mold spores can trigger allergies, especially during damp and humid weather.
  • Airborne Allergens: In addition to pollen and mold, other airborne allergens like dust mites and pet dander can exacerbate seasonal allergy symptoms.

(Monitoring pollen counts through local weather sources can help anticipate and manage exposure to these allergens.)

The Immune System's Role in Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions occur when the immune system mistakenly identifies a harmless substance, such as pollen, as a threat. In response, the body produces antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE) to attack these allergens, leading to the release of histamine and other chemicals. This release causes the symptoms associated with allergic reactions, such as nasal congestion, itchy eyes, and hay fever.

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Allergies in Children

Identifying the signs and symptoms of spring allergies in children is crucial for providing timely and effective relief. Allergic reactions can range from mild to severe and understanding these symptoms is the first step towards managing allergy season successfully.

Common Allergic Symptoms

Allergy symptoms in children can manifest in various ways, including:

  • Runny Nose: A constant runny nose with clear mucus is a hallmark of allergic rhinitis, often accompanied by sneezing.
  • Itchy Watery Eyes: Eye allergies are common in children, leading to red, itchy, and watery eyes, a condition often referred to as allergic conjunctivitis.
  • Nasal Congestion: Stuffy nose due to swollen nasal passages is a bothersome symptom, making it difficult for children to breathe or sleep well.
  • Allergic Asthma: Some children may experience allergy-induced asthma, where allergens trigger breathing difficulties, coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness.

These symptoms are especially prevalent during spring allergy season but can occur anytime children are exposed to common seasonal allergy triggers.

The Impact of Pollen Counts on Allergy Symptoms

Pollen counts, which measure the concentration of pollen in the air over a 24-hour period, can significantly affect the severity of allergy symptoms. High pollen levels, especially during spring and early summer, can lead to an increase in allergy symptoms. Monitoring local pollen counts can help parents anticipate bad allergy days and take steps to minimize exposure, such as staying indoors, using air purifiers, and ensuring air conditioning filters are clean to reduce indoor allergen levels.

When Symptoms Indicate It's Time to See an Allergist

While many allergy symptoms can be managed at home with over-the-counter allergy medications, such as oral antihistamines and corticosteroid nasal sprays, there are certain signs that indicate it might be time to see an allergist. These include:

  • Persistent Symptoms: Symptoms that last beyond the typical allergy season or interfere with daily activities and sleep.
  • Ineffective Medication: Over-the-counter remedies provide little to no relief.
  • Allergic Asthma: If allergy symptoms are accompanied by asthma symptoms, it's crucial to consult an allergist.
  • Severe Reactions: Any signs of severe allergic reactions, such as difficulty breathing, should prompt immediate medical attention.

Tips for Preparing for Allergy Season

As allergy season approaches, preparation can make all the difference in managing symptoms and ensuring your child experiences as little discomfort as possible.

#1: Monitor Pollen Levels

Regularly check local weather reports or websites dedicated to tracking pollen levels. High pollen counts can signal the need to take preventive measures, such as keeping windows closed and limiting outdoor activities.

Knowing when specific plants release pollen can help you anticipate and prepare for your child’s allergy symptoms. Tree pollen typically emerges in early spring, followed by grass pollen in late spring and early summer, and weed pollen in late summer to fall.

#2: Stay on Top of Spring Cleaning

Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to remove dust mites from carpets and upholstery. To kill dust mites and indoor allergens, wash bedding, curtains, and plush toys in hot water regularly. Be sure to also clean bathrooms, kitchens, and other mold-prone areas frequently. To prevent mold growth, use dehumidifiers to keep indoor humidity below 50%.

#3: Adjust Your Home Environment

  • Use Air Purifiers: Install HEPA air purifiers in your child’s bedroom and other common areas to filter out pollen, dust, and other airborne allergens.
  • Optimize Air Conditioning: Use high-efficiency filters in your air conditioning system and change them regularly to clean the air of allergens. Keeping windows closed during high pollen days can prevent allergens from entering your home.
  • Minimize Exposure to Outdoor Allergens: Encourage your child to change clothes and take a shower after coming indoors to wash off any pollen. Dry laundry indoors during high pollen seasons to prevent pollen from clinging to clothes and linens.

Managing Allergy Relief

Effectively managing spring allergies in children involves a blend of medical treatments and home remedies. These strategies can significantly reduce symptoms, helping your child enjoy the springtime with fewer interruptions due to allergy discomfort.

Overview of Allergy Medications

  • Corticosteroid Nasal Sprays: These are effective in reducing inflammation in the nasal passages, relieving nasal congestion, and other nasal symptoms associated with allergic rhinitis. They're considered among the most effective allergy medications available.
  • Oral Antihistamines: These medications can quickly relieve itching, sneezing, and runny nose by blocking the action of histamine, the chemical responsible for many allergy symptoms.
  • Allergen Immunotherapy: Also known as allergy shots, this treatment involves exposing the immune system to gradually increasing doses of the allergen, aiming to desensitize the body's response to it over time.

Non-medical Interventions

  • Nasal Irrigation: A saline solution used for nasal irrigation can help clear nasal passages of allergens and relieve congestion. This method is a gentle, effective way to ease symptoms of nasal allergies.
  • Herbal and Natural Remedies: Some parents find relief for their children through herbal remedies like butterbur or natural supplements like quercetin. However, it's important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new treatment to ensure it's safe and appropriate for your child.
  • Lifestyle Modifications: Simple changes, such as using air purifiers to clean indoor air of allergens, keeping windows closed during high pollen counts, and ensuring your child showers after being outside, can also help minimize exposure to allergy triggers.

The Role of Allergy Shots and When to Consider Them

Allergy shots (allergen immunotherapy) play a significant role in the long-term management of allergies. They are especially considered when:

  • Symptoms are severe: If your child's allergy symptoms are severe and significantly impact their quality of life, allergy shots may offer substantial relief.
  • Medications aren't enough: When allergy medications fail to control symptoms effectively, or if there are concerns about long-term medication use, allergen immunotherapy can be a valuable alternative.
  • Desire for a long-term solution: Parents looking for a more permanent solution to their child's allergies might consider allergy shots, as they have the potential to modify the immune system's response to allergens over time.

Don't Hesitate To Seek Support

The journey through allergy season is made easier with the right support and resources. We encourage parents to stay informed about the latest in allergy care and to be proactive in seeking solutions that will improve their children's quality of life.

At Beittel-Becker Pediatric Associates, we understand the impact that seasonal allergies can have on children and their families. Our commitment to providing comprehensive care and support is unwavering. With decades of experience and a dedication to the well-being of our community's children, we stand ready to assist you through allergy season and beyond.

If you're looking to confidently navigate the early days of parenthood or seek guidance on the best practices for newborn care, reach out to our team of experienced pediatricians at  Beittel-Becker Pediatric Associates or schedule an appointment directly online today!

Request An Appointment