Kids and Pollen: Best Way to Treat Allergies


Sneezing and sniffling is no way for a kid to spend spring and summer. (Photo: iStock/Nautilus Shell Studios)

Late spring means backyard barbecues, the last days of school — and lots of sneezing and wheezing, thanks to all the pollen swirling through the air that’s constantly released by trees, grass, and other plants this time of year.

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And if you’ve noticed more itchy eyes and runny noses than usual this season, it’s not your imagination. Some parts of the country, especially the Northeast, are in the middle of a “pollen tsunami” — super-high pollen counts triggered by a cold, dry winter.

Making things worse for families is that more children than ever are dealing with seasonal allergies. “The number of kids who have pollen allergies has doubled in the last 20 years,” Dr. Jonathan M. Spergel, pediatric allergist and chief of the allergy section at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, tells Yahoo Parenting.

Doctors aren’t sure why. It might have to do with climate change, which could be causing warmer temperatures and a surge in pollen levels. Or it could be that kids are less exposed to allergens these days, thanks to improved hygiene and fears of germs, so they don’t build up the immunity to pollen and other allergens that protected previous generations.

“Right now, we’re inundated with kids who are suffering from seasonal allergy symptoms,” Dr. Jenny Shliozberg, pediatric allergy specialist at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, tells Yahoo Parenting.

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Whatever the cause, hay fever, aka seasonal allergies, can be rough on everyone — kids feel itchy and congested, and parents are desperate to ease the symptoms. The following strategies will make kids less miserable:

Keep your windows and doors shut. This prevents pollen-packed fresh air from getting into your house or car, and the pollen from finding its way to your child’s eyes and nose, says Spergel. “Use your air conditioner or the AC fan to get fresh air circulating, and make sure you change the filter every three months to filter out pollen,” he suggests.

Change clothes after playing outside. Pollen collects on clothes, so after an outdoor playdate or playground time, toss clothes in the hamper and have your child change into something reserved for inside only, says Shliozberg.

Wash up after outdoor time. “Hair and skin also attract pollen, so rinsing with soap and water, ideally in the shower or bathtub, will wash pollen away,” says Spergel. This also prevents pollen from getting on a child’s pillow, triggering allergies at night and keeping her from sleeping.

Crank the steam. Steam heat makes congestion from a cold feel better, and it works the same way for allergy-induced congestion and runny nose, says Shliozberg.

Stay inside when pollen is high. “Pollen counts peak early in the morning,” says Shliozberg. Weather reports include a pollen count number, so pay attention to it; when it’s high, encourage kids to hang indoors.

Rinse with salt water. Store-bought saline solutions let you squirt salt water up your child’s nose, which flushes out pollen and relieves congestion. These products are safe for kids, says Spergel. “It’s the same as dunking your head in the saltwater of the ocean,” he adds.

Try children’s allergy meds. The kid versions of over-the-counter allergy meds are safe and effective, says Shliozberg. Still, always check the label to be totally sure, and give your pediatrician a call if you have any concerns.

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