Spring is here with warmer weather and flowers but outdoor activities can be ruined by seasonal allergies and asthma attacks in children. Dr. Stephanie Pope, one of our amazing pediatricians, has a checklist to help your family prepare for allergy season.
1. Start early. Begin treatments for allergy symptoms 2 weeks BEFORE symptoms start. Early treatment prevents asthma attacks and severe allergic symptoms. Pick a milestone like the cherry blossoms blooming as the date to start medications even if your child is symptom-free. This is usually in March.
2. See your doctor. At the appointment, look for a history of annual patterns, request medication refills, get new prescriptions, and create or update your asthma and allergy action plans. Discard any expired medications you have at home.
3. Know your enemy. Learn your child’s asthma and allergy triggers. Not everyone with allergies has asthma BUT most people with asthma have allergies. Flare-ups in eczema (dry skin) and allergy symptoms can signal the start of an asthma exacerbation. Other asthma triggers are exercise, emotional stress, perfumes, tobacco smoke, viruses, mold, fungi, bacterial infections, animals, dust mites, changes in temperature, humidity, air pollution and plants.
4. Avoid triggers and prevent exposure. Avoid participation in outdoor activities when pollen counts are highest. Monitor pollen with weather reports. Wear hats to keep pollen off of your hair and face. Skip hairsprays and gels. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. Keep windows closed in your home and car and use air conditioners as a way to prevent exposure to pollen.
5. Clean up. When coming indoors from outside, take off your shoes. Shower or wash your face and hair to remove pollen. Use a damp cloth to wipe down surfaces at home. Cover mattresses in hypoallergenic covers and wash sheets often. Inspect damp areas of your home for mold. Change filters in your home for air conditioners and air purifiers.
Above: Common allergens include pollen and insect stings, mold spores, and pet dander
6. Take your medicine.
Antihistamines are usually the first weapons against allergies. Non-drowsy anti-histamines include: cetirizine (Zyrtec), loratadine (Claritin) and fexofenadine (Allegra). Cetirizine and Loratadine are safe for children over 6 months of age.
Nasal sprays. Nasal corticosteroids need up to 14 days to provide symptom relief. Commonly used nasal sprays are fluticasone (Flonase), mometasone (Nasonex) and triamcinolone (Nasocort). Avoid nasal decongestants, like Afrin and Sudafed, because they can cause an unpleasant “rebound effect” and dependence.
Eye drops, such as, azelstaline (Optivar) and ketotifen fumarate (Zaditor) help stop itchy watery eyes.
Natural remedies. Washing nostrils out with salt water rinses daily removes allergens from your nose, where the problem starts.
Medications for asthma specifically:
- Bronchodilators, like albuterol, fight asthma attacks by relaxing narrow airways. Use as soon as cough and difficulty breathing are suspected.
- Inhaled corticosteroids like fluticasone (Flovent) or budesonide (Pulmicort), prevent swelling in the airways of the lung. Using inhaled corticosteroids daily, even if your child appears healthy, will help prevent asthma symptoms.
- Immunomodulators and combination drugs. Drugs in this class are combination inhalers, montelukast (Singulair) and omalizumab (Xolair). They also prevent immune system responses that cause airway inflammation.
7. When to get a referral. If the above medications are not improving allergy symptoms or your child is missing school or too many outdoor activities, then it may be time to consult an allergist and discuss immunotherapy and conduct allergen skin testing (in children over 2 years old).
If you’d like to discuss your child’s asthma or allergies with our team of caring pediatricians, please don’t hesitate to call 1-844-796-2797 or request an appointment online.
About Dr. Pope
Dr. Stephanie Pope holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Princeton University. She completed medical school at the University of Maryland and her pediatric residency at Georgetown University in 2010. She especially enjoys working with children with special health care needs and adolescents. She speaks English and Spanish. Dr. Pope says: "I am grateful that I can work as part of a large experienced multi-disciplinary team to help patients overcome social and economic barriers to accessing quality health care with dignity. It is absolutely possible to attain social change through medicine and good health". In her free time, Dr. Pope enjoys mentoring students, exploring museums with her son and husband, experiencing new cultures, science fiction and pupusas. Read Dr. Pope’s blog on what every parent needs to know about treating colds.