Breathe Easier Knowing Spring's Pollen Triggers

SUNDAY April 5, 2009 -- Spring can be challenging if your child is one of the more than 35 million Americans with hay fever. But a bit of preparation can help the youngster enjoy being outside, one expert says.

This involves three steps, explained Dr. Clay Stallworth, a pediatrician with MCG Pediatric Primary Care Associates and MCGHealth Children's Medical Center in Augusta, Ga.:

  • Know if your child has allergies and what causes them.
  • Find out when plant pollination will occur.
  • Begin treatments before symptoms appear.

Allergies tend to run in families. If both parents have allergies, their children have a 75 percent to 80 percent chance of developing allergies, Stallworth noted. The risk drops to 40 percent if one parent is allergic. Children usually develop seasonal allergies at 5 to 6 years old, but they can develop them at any age, even as adults, he added.

Signs of allergies include:

  • Sneezing more often than usual
  • Eyes that continually water
  • Cold symptoms that last more than 10 days without fever
  • Repeated ear and sinus infections
  • Prolonged loss of smell or taste
  • Frequent throat clearing or hoarseness
  • Persistent coughing

The best way to prevent allergies is to limit exposure, and Stallworth outlined some ways to do that:

  • Schedule outdoor activities for late afternoon or after a heavy rainfall, when pollen levels are lower. Pollen index levels fluctuate from day to day, but you can find out what they are by checking local weather reports.
  • Close windows and doors and use air conditioning instead of window fans. Air conditioning helps filter out pollen particles.
  • When landscaping, choose plants that don't aggravate allergies.
  • Don't mow lawns or rake leaves when children are outside because these chores can stir up pollen.
  • Don't hang clothes or sheets outdoors to dry because they'll pick up pollen that will be brought indoors. Pollen can also be brought indoors by people or pets.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about seasonal allergies.

Posted: April 2009


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