Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February 29: "Leap" into allergy season!

Spring allergy season is arriving!  March in Wichita usually is the start of the allergy season, with itchy eyes, runny or stuffy noses, sneezing, dark under-eye circles, itchy skin, and for some kids, asthma flare-ups. Kids who are known to suffer from spring time allergies in Wichita typically need to start their allergy medications in the middle of February.  We have had such a mild winter that I'm expecting Wichita's pollen counts to explode anytime now. . .
Do you feel unsure if your child might have allergies, or is it just cold symptoms?  It is often hard to tell in young children.  A few good points to make:  children less than 2 years very rarely have seasonal allergies.  Allergies never cause fever, and never cause muscle aches and pains.  If you are concerned that your child may have allergy symptoms, and if they are severe enough that sleep is disrupted or your child is expressing their annoyance at these symptoms, see your child's doctor to discuss the best treatment plan.   

Spring time allergy treatment plans for children may include:
  • An over-the-counter, long-acting antihistamine medication (such as Zyrtec, Claritin, or the generic equivalents) taken every night. 
  • A prescription nose spray (such as Flonase or Nasonex) made of a low-potency liquid steroid that is squirted one spray into each nostril once or twice daily.  A benefit of using a nose spray for spring allergies is that it helps control both runny/congested noses PLUS it relieves itchy eyes.  
  • Singulair is another prescription medication that is used in controlling allergies.  It is not often helpful in controlling allergies if used alone, but when combined with an antihistamine medication, it can be very effective.  
  • For itchy, watery eyes, sometimes a prescription antihistamine eye drop such as Patanol can provide great relief.
  • Kids with asthma may require a daily "maintenance" medication during these allergy months, or if they are already on a daily medication for asthma control, they may need to increase their medication dosage temporarily.  
Non-medicine tips:
  • Make sure your child bathes or showers every night and washes their hair.  This washes off any pollen that has stuck to their skin and hair over the course of the day.
  • For kids with dry, rash-prone skin or eczema, make sure they are moisturizing their skin nightly after baths with a thick, "greasy" moisturizer, such as Vaseline, Eucarin, Aquephor, or generic equivalents.
  • Wash clothes every day, and wash jackets and sweaters often.
  • Keep windows in the house closed.
  • Take shoes off at the door.  Not wearing shoes in the house will decrease pollen tracking onto floors, rugs, and carpets.  
  • Don't forget housekeeping :)  Dust, vacuum, and mop more frequently to keep settled dust and pollen in the home to a minimum.  Wash your child's bedding at least once weekly and wash curtains or remove them.  
  • Use a cool mist humidifier in the bedroom if the air is dry to help prevent dry sore throat from night-time mouth breathing.  
Should your child see an allergy specialist? 

Finally, if your child has severe allergy symptoms that are not well controlled despite using multiple medications, or if allergy symptoms are becoming more severe over the years, your may want your child to see an allergist.  An allergist may recommend treatment with allergy immunotherapy (allergy shots).  Allergy shots can decrease your child's allergy symptoms, and may make them go away entirely.  This can decrease your child's risk of developing asthma, or reduce asthma flare-ups if your child already has asthma.  Allergy shots are usually done about once weekly, with a much smaller needle than is used in an immunization, and are very well tolerated by children.  

Spring break is fast approaching, too!  If you have allergy sufferers in your family and are planning on a spring break trip, just leaving Wichita may relieve your allergy symptoms for the duration of your time away.  :)

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