Autumn is one of my favorite times of year. The air starts to get a bit of crispness in it and things start turning beautifully golden and orange. Around where I live, tobacco barns start curing the tobacco crops making the morning air heavy with a smoky smell. But for those of us with seasonal allergic rhinitis, there is a downside to this time of year. Luckily if you or your child struggles with allergies (at any time of year), there are things you can do to help manage your symptoms and still enjoy the season.
Keep the pollen where it belongs
You are not going to be able to totally avoid pollen, but you CAN minimize the amount you bring into your home. If your kids have been playing outside, have them hop in the bath and change into clean (pollen free) clothes when they come in. Also resist the urge to open up the windows and let cool breezes in. Pollen will drift in, but it won’t go back out.
Do damage control
No matter how hard you try, some pollen is going to make its way in your home. Change air filters often and use HEPA filters to trap pollen. If you’ve not had your air ducts cleaned, consider hiring someone to come clean them out. Some experts even recommend having this done annually. Vacuum carpeted areas 1-2 times each week. If your kiddos have allergies to your pets, keep the pets out of their bedrooms.
Discuss medication options with your doctor
If all your best efforts are failing you and the sneezes and sniffles are getting the best of your household, talk with your doctor about medicines to help. There are several different types of medication that are routinely used to help manage allergy symptoms. And remember, the goal of allergy treatment is to participate FULLY in life. Not to avoid activities.
Antihistamines are the mainstay first-line treatment of allergies. Long acting antihistamines like Zyrtec and Claritin don’t cause as much sleepiness as the short acting ones (like Benadryl). And as they are not prevention meds, you can use them on days where the leaking nose and itchy eyes are getting to you. Check with your doctor on proper dosing for your littles.
If your child’s allergy symptoms have moved from every once in a while to a daily challenge, your pediatrician may recommend a daily nasal steroid spray. These are designed to wash over the nasal turbinates (the swollen parts on the inside of your nose) and help to shrink down the swollen tissue. This makes it easier to breathe out of the nose.
One of the biggest complaints I get on nose sprays is that kids don’t like how they taste. If this is a recurrent them at your house, talk with your pediatrician about how to properly use your nose sprays so that this is not an issue. You can also check out this post by Dr. Stuppy at QuestforhealthKC on How To Use Nose Sprays Correctly.
For kiddos who struggle for asthma along with their allergies, leukotriene receptor antagonists like montelukast (Singulair) can help to treat both these issues. These medicines are generally well tolerated and work by blocking a chemical reaction that leads to inflammation in the airways. These medications are not as useful for control of asthma as inhaled steroids, but they can be super helpful for those kids with asthma and allergies.
Saline nasal spray
These are over the counter, but they are safe and effective in helping with nasal symptoms. A squirt of saline in each nostril can be used as needed to decrease swelling in the nose and to help rinse out all that pesky mucous.
Visit an Allergist
If your child is only the entire host of allergy medications and still expecting daily persistent symptoms that are restricting their participation in life, it may be time to talk with your friendly local allergist. Although I get a lot of questions about allergy testing, it’s not usually my first step. After all, knowing that you’re allergic to ragweed isn’t going to give you any information that you can use since completely removing it from your life is impossible.
However, if you’ve continued to struggle with persistent allergy symptoms despite good comprehensive allergy management, it might be time to consider allergy shots. These take quite a committment, but for some, it is a life changing therapy. Make sure to talk with your doctor to see if this would be something for you to consider.
Allergic rhinitis is very common, but there is no reason to avoid the things you love as a result. Having a diagnosis of allergies should in no way restrict your child’s enjoyment in outdoor play, recess, or sports. If you feel that it IS restricting them, talk to you doctor. We’re here to help.