Got hay fever? Actually, this annoying condition has little to do with hay or fever. It’s an old term that refers to the symptoms people experience when they have fall allergies or allergic rhinitis. The main culprits are ragweed and mold.
“If your child reacts to these fall allergens, you may wish the season never started,” said Tracy Rife RN, BSN, AE-C, an asthma and Easy Breathing program coordinator at Akron Children’s Hospital. “A runny nose, itchy eyes and scratchy throat can make your child feel miserable.”
The first step toward helping your child feel better is knowing the difference between allergies and the common cold. It might be an allergic reaction if …
- Cold-like symptoms last more than a couple weeks – or keep recurring at the same time of year.
- There are sniffles, nasal stuffiness and sneezing.
- Your child complains about an itchy throat and/or nose. While itchiness is typically not a problem with a cold, it’s a strong indicator for allergies.
- Respiratory problems like coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing occur. If the coughing worsens at night or during exercise, it may be asthma.
If you’ve noticed these symptoms, the next step is to talk to the experts.
- Your pediatrician. Minor allergies can often be treated with short-term antihistamines or decongestants.
- An allergist. For more persistent or severe allergies, it’s best to see a board-certified pediatric allergist who can properly diagnose the problem, teach avoidance techniques and prescribe the right medications (including allergy shots) to control symptoms.
You also play an important role in easing your child’s symptoms.
- Have your child play outside in the morning. Pollens are worse during the middle of the day.
- Bathe your child after outdoor play. Wash her hair and change her clothes immediately after she comes inside.
- Keep doors and windows shut. During pollen season, keep allergens out of your home by blocking entry points. If possible, keep your air conditioner running on low to help clean the air.
- Watch pollen counts. Keep your child indoors during peak hours.
- Leave leaves alone. Raking or blowing the leaves can stir up mold or pollen spores. Keep your child inside or consider having him wear a NIOSH-rated N95 mask.
- Teach your child to avoid allergy triggers. Avoidance is often the best way to prevent flare ups.
- Allergens at school. If your child is heading to school this fall, talk with her teacher about reducing triggers like classroom pets and chalk dust. The lunchroom can could lead to problems for children with food allergies. The gym or playground could lead to exercise-induced asthma flare ups. Make sure the school nurse is aware of your child’s condition and has her emergency medications, such as epinephrine and quick-relief inhalers.
Your child’s symptoms should ease naturally when the first hard freeze occurs and ragweed pollen and mold start to disappear. Until then, lingering warm weather may prolong rhinitis symptoms. Mold spores can still be released when the weather is dry and windy or the humidity is high. If you want to track your child’s allergy symptoms, check out MyNasalAllergyJournal.org.