18 April 2015
Ah Spring…that time of year you either love or loathe, depending on whether you have allergies. As trees and flowers start to bloom and pollen takes to the air, spring allergy sufferers begin to sniffle and sneeze. And although there is no magical cure for spring allergies, at Westchester Health Pediatrics we have a number of ways you can lessen their effect on you and your family.
This is a good time to consult with your child’s pediatrician
If your child suffers from spring allergies, it’s important to check in with his/her pediatrician, especially at this time of year. At Westchester Health Pediatrics, we are pleased to have four allergy,
asthma and immunology specialists on our team who have received specific training in the diagnosis
and treatment of children’s allergies. If your pediatrician feels that your child would benefit from seeing
one of these specialists, he/she will make a referral.
What causes spring allergies?
The biggest spring allergy trigger is pollen: tiny grains released into the air by trees, grasses and
weeds for the purpose of fertilizing other plants. When these pollen grains get into the nose of
someone who is allergic to them, their immune system mistakenly sees them as foreign invaders
and releases antibodies to attack the allergens. This leads to the release of chemicals called
histamines which trigger a runny nose, itchy eyes and other symptoms of allergies. The higher
the pollen count, the greater the symptoms.
Allergy symptoms tend to be particularly high on windy days when the wind picks up pollen and
carries it through the air. Rainy days, on the other hand, cause a drop in pollen counts as the
allergens get washed away.
Symptoms of spring allergies:
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Itchy eyes and nose
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Allergens also can trigger asthma, a condition in which the airways narrow, making breathing difficult and leading to coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.
Treatment for spring allergies
Spring allergies can be treated with a number of over-the-counter medicines, including:
- Antihistamines reduce sneezing, sniffling and itching by lowering the amount of histamine (the substance produced during an allergic reaction) in the body.
- Decongestants clear mucus from the nasal passageways to relieve congestion and swelling.
- Antihistamine/decongestants combine the effects of both of the above drugs.
- Nasal spray decongestants relieve congestion and may clear clogged nasal passages faster than oral decongestants.
- Steroid nasal sprays reduce inflammation. Only two, Nasacort and Flonase, are currently available over the counter.
- Cromolyn sodium nasal spray can help prevent hay fever by stopping the release of histamine before it can trigger allergy symptoms.
- Eye drops relieve itchy, watery eyes.
Even though you can buy these allergy drugs without a prescription, talk to your child’s
pediatrician first to make sure these medications are safe for him/her to take. Some
antihistamines can make your child feel sleepy, for example. If your child’s spring allergies are
particularly severe, his/her pediatrician may recommend prescription medication.
How to manage spring allergies
It’s nearly impossible to completely avoid spring allergies if you live in an area which has an
abundance of trees, flowers and plants. However, you can lessen the sniffling, sneezing and
watery eyes by avoiding spring allergies’ main triggers. At Westchester Health Pediatrics, we recommend:
- Try to stay indoors whenever the pollen count is very high (it usually peaks in the morning)
- Keep your doors and windows closed whenever possible during the spring/summer months to keep out allergens.
- Use an air purifier.
- Clean the air conditioner filters in your home often.
- Clean bookshelves, vents and other places where pollen can collect.
- Wash your child’s hair after going outside (pollen can collect there).
- Vacuum twice a week. Be sure to wear a mask because vacuuming can kick up pollen, mold and dust trapped in your carpet.