For millions of kids in the U.S. the onset of spring allergies can put a real damper on what should be the season of sunny outdoor fun. But don’t throw in the beach towel just yet. Yahoo Life spoke with Dr. Alok Patel, a physician at Stanford Children's Health, to get his top three tips on how to help keep your child’s seasonal allergy symptoms in check.
Seasonal allergies in kids tend to develop sometime between the ages of two to five; and at that age they probably won’t be able to give you details on what’s bothering them. So for starters, Patel says you may need to do some “detective work” to find out if allergies are the real culprit of their symptoms.
Patel says you should look out for lifestyle changes — like your child having difficulty sleeping or trouble concentrating at school — since common allergy symptoms like congested and runny nose and itchy red eyes can be distracting and keep kids up at night.
And with spring seasonal allergies overlapping with the COVID-19 pandemic, Patel says parents should beware if their child’s scratchy throat and stuffy nose are accompanied by a fever and body aches; the latter symptoms aren’t normal with allergies and could indicate something infectious.
So once you’ve identified allergies as the problem, now what?
Tip #1: Know you’re not alone
“Number one, realize you're not alone,” Patel says. “Millions of people suffer from seasonal allergies. There's always someone for you to talk to about this."
And chances are if you child has allergies, you or someone else in your household has probably dealt with allergies before, too.
“Ask yourself, have you had seasonal allergies? Or anyone else in your family? Because genetics may play a part,” Patel tells Yahoo Life.
Tip #2: Get organized
Next, Patel says parents need to “get organized.” He suggests keeping a journal to jot down notes on when your child’s symptoms start, what the pollen count looked like that day and any possible triggers.
“These can be really useful for healthcare professionals, such as an allergist, to determine what allergy exactly is bothering your kid — if they even are allergies,” Patel says.
You'll also want to pay attention to when your child's symptoms begin, since timing can have a lot to do with what may be triggering allergies and can help you reduce exposure in the future. For example, if your child is playing outside and develops symptoms in early spring, they may have a tree pollen allergy; if symptoms appear in late spring or early summer, they may have a grass pollen allergy.
And with so many treatment options — from allergy shots to over-the-counter medications like oral antihistamines, flavored cough syrups and nasal sprays — Patel says it’s a good idea to touch base with a board certified allergist to come up with a plan to manage your child’s allergies.
“Make sure you're following the instructions if you choose to give your child an allergy medication, because some medications are not appropriate for all different age groups,” Patel adds. “And if you have any questions, you should check in with [a] healthcare professional.”
Tip #3: Talk to your kids about allergies
And finally, Patel says it’s important to talk with your child about their allergies and symptoms, listen and acknowledge what they’re going through.
“The way I explain this to kids is I say, ‘Hey, there's a lot of things in the world that are not harmful to us, but for one reason or another, our immune system, which is designed to protect us against bad things, sometimes recognizes these friendly particles as enemies. And it causes a chemical reaction,’” Patel says.
“‘It happens to a lot of people out there, but we can make you feel better.’”
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