When it comes to asthma, hay fever and eczema, 2 is not company and 3 is definitely a crowd. Unfortunately, it’s common for children to develop one or more of these problems if they have a family history of any of these 3 conditions. In fact, since asthma, hay fever and eczema so commonly occur together, they’re referred to as the atopic triad.
“Atopy is a family’s predisposition to developing one or more of these allergic conditions,” said Tracy Rife, RN, BSN, AE-C, asthma and easy breathing program coordinator at Akron Children’s Hospital. “When one or both parents have eczema, hay fever or asthma, it raises their children’s risk of having one or more of these problems.”
Eczema typically occurs first, with symptoms usually appearing when a child is an infant or toddler. As these children get older, they’re at high risk of developing hay fever and asthma as well.
Throughout the year, the atopic triad presents difficulties – dry skin in the winter and pollens in the summer. But thanks to advancements in medical knowledge and treatments, there is much you can do to ease the symptoms.
Characterized by dry, red, itchy, sore or broken skin, eczema (also called atopic dermatitis) tends to run in families and may be activated by temperature changes, illness, stress and exposure to allergens. You can help your child manage their eczema by:
- Discouraging scratching. Keep your child’s nails short and consider having them wear cotton gloves or mittens at night (and during naps) to prevent scratching, which can damage their skin – and perhaps even lead to bleeding and infection.
- Bathing in lukewarm water. Long, hot baths dry out the skin and worsen eczema. Avoid drying soaps and opt for mild, moisturizing baby washes or a cleanser prescribed by your pediatrician. After the bath, pat your child’s skin dry without rubbing.
- Moisturizing. Immediately after bathing your child, seal in moisture by applying body oil or an emollient to their still-damp skin. Ask your pediatrician to recommend a moisturizer that’s free of perfumes and other possible irritants.
When your child has asthma, various allergens irritate their airways and make it difficult for them to breathe. You can help manage your child’s asthma by:
- Avoiding asthma triggers. Flare-ups can be caused by perfume, cigarette smoke, certain cleaning products, cold air, physical activity and other triggers.
- Taking a proactive approach. Keep doctor appointments and follow the medication instructions. Help your child maintain a healthy weight and get regular exercise. If exercise triggers your child’s asthma, try getting him an inhaler.
- Avoiding smoke.
- Minimizing dust. If dust mites trigger your child’s asthma, clean your house on a regular basis and washing bedding at a high temperature.
Also known as allergic rhinitis, hay fever typically bothers people during the spring and summer. Characterized by a runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing and headaches, this condition is most often caused by pollens from grass, trees and plants, as well as by spores from molds and fungi. Minimize your child’s symptoms by:
- Taking medications. Your pediatrician could recommend or prescribe nasal sprays and antihistamines and other helpful medicines. Some may cause drowsiness.
- Avoiding pollens. When the pollen count is high, keep windows and doors closed. Do not hang clothes outside to dry .
- Washing off pollens. After your children have been outside, give them a bath to rinse off pollens. Dress them in clean clothing.
- Using petroleum jelly. Gently rub petroleum jelly around the inside of your child’s nose. This helps prevent pollens and spores from irritating the lining of their nose.
Dealing with asthma, eczema and/or hay fever can be a bit of a challenge. The good news is that symptoms can be controlled by following these tips and the recommendations of your child’s pediatrician.