Minimizing Discomfort from Seasonal Allergies
How Do You Determine If Your Child Has Allergies Or If It’s Something Else?
The typical allergic child will sneeze, have a clear runny nose (sometimes runs like a faucet), itchy, watery and/or puffy eyes, dark circles below them, and often itchy, hivey, rashy skin, especially after outdoor exposure.
What Can Parents Do For A Runny Nose?
If your child is comfortable, sleeping well, and isn’t bothered by a clear runny nose, you don’t have to offer relief. However if your little one is rubbing, itching, miserable, can’t sleep, or has trouble breathing then you can do a few things to help:
• You can irrigate your child’s nose with saline mist multiple times during the day to promote mucus flow. • A warm shower immediately after outdoor play will rinse pollen from skin, nose and hair, and promote mucous flow. • Peppermint tea is a natural decongestant, and if given to older children can be effective (the menthol in it can make younger children choke, so be mindful). • If your child likes wasabi or horseradish, a little given orally often clears the nose. The same holds true for spicy food! • If symptoms are severe, your pediatrician may recommend a daily non sedating antihistamine like loratidine (Claritin), cetirizine (zyrtec) or fexofenadine (allegra) for use when outdoor exposure is unavoidable. For more severe cases, a nasal spray with anti-inflammatory properties may be recommended.
What Can You Do If Your Child’s Skin Is Itchy?
Pollen can enter kids’ noses and eyes and set off what is called a histamine reaction – leading to itchy skin, sometimes hives (AKA welts), and prickly heat rash (usually on the neck, armpits, crooks of the arms and legs) on warm days – all of which are uncomfortable. If your child needs relief:
• A cool shower immediately after playing. Oatmeal baths are also very soothing and reduce itch. • Dress lightly in loose cotton clothing. • A gentle emollient, or lotion with pramoxine (Sarna is one brand) will offer itch relief for heat rash or itchy skin without the need for steroids or antihistamines. • If hives that are uncomfortable and either progress or don’t go away, then an oral antihistamine like loratidine, cetirizine or diphenhydramine (Benadryl – careful, it’s sedating) is in order. • AVOID applying topical Benadryl, as it can cause allergy by absorbing into the skin and causing a reverse reaction (ie more itch)….doesn’t happen very often, but there are better options out there. • Avoidance of extreme heat for a couple of days after a heat rash. Keep the house cool and let that inflamed skin rest and recover.
What Should Parents Do In The Case Of Bug Bites?
For some kids the venom from bug bites causes an intense local reaction with swelling, redness, and itch.
• Cool compresses soothe immediately. • A paste of baking soda applied to the bite often will ease the itch. • Topical OTC 1% hydrocortisone 2-3 times daily will keep little fingers from scratching the bite open. • Witch hazel applied to cotton balls is also soothing. • If your child is a bug’s delight, consider applying insect repellant before outside play, especially if your child is outdoors late afternoon/around dusk (when bugs are coming out to play, too!).
If A Child Has Itchy Eyes, What Can Parents Do?
If the itch leads to fussiness, swelling, and a miserable child then try:
• Cucumber slices or cold wet teabags on the eyes. • OTC allergy drops – Napcon, Opcon, Visine A, or Zaditor. • Wear sunglasses or goggles on windy days to prevent pollen from blowing directly into eyes. • Prescription eye drops if conservative measures or OTC drops don’t do the trick. • Change your child’s pillowcase to a clean one if little heads have napped on them before showering. JJ Levenstein, MD FAAP, is a Board Certified Pediatrician. You can take parenting classes with instruction by Dr. Levenstein online by visiting www.momassembly.com. Also, find helpful parenting products at www.mdmoms.com.