Healthy Kids    

Season of the sneeze



Seeking relief for your child’s springtime allergies


It’s allergy time again. “Mid-March to late April is when most allergies occur,” says Dr. Guy Robinson, a certified pollen counter at the Louis Calder Center in Armonk. Here in the pollen-rich Hudson Valley, many children will suffer through the inevitable high count days. In fact, more than 40% of kids get allergies, while about 20-30% of the adult population suffer seasonal symptoms.

 

Aside from keeping windows rolled up in the car and at home, and staying indoors during early spring mornings when tree pollen is most prevalent, there is not much to be done in terms of prevention. “Pollen is small to the point that you can only see them under a microscope. They are light and fly with the wind,” says Dr. Jinlin Du of Crystal Run Healthcare in Middletown.

 

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Allergens trigger a cascade of immunological changes in your child’s body, releasing histamine and late response reactors. “The immediate release causes sneezing, runny nose and itchy, watery eyes. The delayed symptoms are nasal congestion, restricted bronchus and wheezing,” says Du.

 

What are the top five springtime allergies in the Hudson Valley?

  • ragweed
  • pigweed
  • mold spores
  • oak pollen
  • timothy grass

Suffering vs. a free pass
Scientists are still trying to figure out why some children suffer while others sail through the season. The most popular theory is the hygiene hypothesis, which states that children who live in clean environments like those found in developed countries suffer more because they have not built up immunity to the impurities in the air. “Some feel that exposing kids to a cat early on may prevent allergies, but that is controversial,” says Dr. Ran Rubinstein, an ENT specialist with an allergy and sinus practice in Newburgh. “Others feel that nursing can prevent allergies because the belief is that some of the allergies come in through drinking cow’s milk at a young age.” 

 

READ MORE: 6 surprising ways to beat seasonal allergies


Some kids start off with severe allergies but eventually develop tolerance to their exposures. It can also work the other way around, where a teenager may experience symptoms for the first time that he did not previously have.“It is important for them to use the right medication and regimen because the chronic disease will affect their quality of life, school performance, and quality of sleep at night,” says Du.

 

First line of defense

Over-the-counter medications like Claritin and Zyrtec are a good first line of defense, though they can come with side effects. Claritin is noted for offering non-drowsy allergy relief for children age six and up. Zyrtec can be given to children as young as 6 months, but the dose is adjusted. This is why it is important to consult with your physician and not to self-treat. A nasal decongestant spray may also come in handy but should be used with caution.

“Sprays like Afrin could become addictive in a few days. Your child will feel relief, and then constantly spraying will make his stuffiness worse,” warns Rubinstein. Read labels, as some medications such as Sudafed are contraindicated for high blood pressure.

Jamie Lober, author of Pink Power, is a nationally known speaker dedicated to providing information on women’s and pediatric health topics. She can be reached at jamie@getpinkpower.com.