Don’t let seasonal allergies stop your child from experiencing the great outdoors. Try these simple steps to better manage your child’s allergies.
When spring rolls around, many kids who’ve been cooped up all winter are ready to run, roll down hills, and climb jungle gyms. However, if your child has seasonalallergies you may be reluctant to let him or her play outside for fear of a flare-up.
While your hesitation is understandable, you may be able to rest a little easier. “While it is true that one should take precautions, allergies are manageable and should not prevent children from staying active and enjoying the outdoors,” saysJoyce Rabbat, MD, a pediatric allergy specialist and assistant professor at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois. Dr. Rabbat says that children with uncontrolled seasonal allergies should be treated by an allergist, a specialist who can offer parents guidance on allergy management.
In addition to taking your child to see an allergist, there are other steps parents can take to help keep children’s allergies under control and outsmart common allergens, such as pollens from trees, grass, and weeds:
1. Identify allergy triggers. An important part of managing allergies is identifying and avoiding allergens — the substances that cause an allergic reaction. By learning what triggers your child’s allergies, you can manage or minimize exposure to them, Dr. Rabbat explains. “Certain plants pollinate at different times of the year,” she says. “By identifying which seasons will be problematic, you can take steps to avoid these allergens and start allergy medicines just prior to the season, so the reactions your child does experience are less severe.”
2. Become familiar with pollen counts. Pollen counts fluctuate daily, so consider your local pollen count when planning kids’ activities each day. “Checking pollen counts can help give you a sense of how good or bad allergies will be that day,” Rabbat explains. “If the counts are high, you may opt for different activities or have your child take an allergy medicine prior to playing outside.”
Besides following daily pollen counts, it’s good to know when during the day your child may be exposed to the highest levels of pollen. Encourage outdoor playtime when pollen counts are low and there’s less risk of exposure to potential allergens, Rabbat suggests.
Pollen counts spike at certain times of the year, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. During ragweed pollen season in the late summer and early fall, pollen levels are highest in the morning. In the spring and summer, when grass pollen season hits, pollen counts peak in the evening.
3. Check the weather forecast. Dry, hot, and windy days can be particularly problematic for kids with pollen allergies, as this is when pollen counts tend to be highest, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Birds, insects, and wind can all carry pollen from plant to plant. While pollen helps fertilize plants, it can trigger a flare-up of allergies, the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology explains.
In general, parents of kids with seasonal allergies should try to plan outdoor activities for later in the afternoon or after a heavy rain, when pollen counts drop, the NIH says. But as noted above, if your child has a grass pollen allergy, earlier in the day might be easier.
4. Choose kids’ activities wisely. Some outdoor activities may be better than others for kids with allergies. For instance, children with mold allergies should avoid playing in piles of dead leaves. Children with allergies to grass should avoid playing in a freshly mowed field, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests. Other outdoor activities like swimming or hopscotch on pavement might give your child a chance to be outside without stirring up allergens.
5. Dress your child to beat allergies. With a little planning, parents can ease the impact of outdoor allergens, Rabbat says. “Have your children change their clothes and take a shower after being outdoors,” she says. This can help remove allergens from skin and hair. Wearing sunglasses can help protect children’s eyes and reduce uncomfortable symptoms, like redness or itching.
It’s also a good idea to close the windows and use air conditioners whenever possible to lessen the chance of bringing outdoor allergens inside, the AAP advises.
6. Be prepared. Though it can be worrisome to let kids with seasonal allergies head outside to play, being prepared for an allergy attack can help parents relax and allow their kids to venture out for some fresh air, Rabbat says.
Talk to your child’s allergist about what to do if he or she experiences an allergy attack. Some children may benefit from taking medication before heading outside to prevent allergy symptoms. Others may need to keep a fast-acting treatment with them, Rabbat says. The AAP notes that allergy shots, or immunotherapy, could also help kids manage their allergies and enjoy the outdoors.