The Sneezing Season

Step 1: Stop Allergy Triggers

Doctors say that if your child is prone to seasonal allergies, the best way to prevent symptoms from occurring is to avoid the allergens in the first place. Here's what you can do to help.

Get a forecast. The release of pollen from trees and grasses depends on the date, not the weather; this makes the onslaught of allergies predictable. "I live in Baltimore, where maples release pollen on the last day of February or the first day of March and oaks start on April 10 or 11," says Robert Wood, M.D., director of pediatric allergy clinics at Johns Hopkins University Hospital, in Baltimore. "Your local allergist should have the same kind of information for your area, which you can use to plan activities or drug treatment." If you know from experience that maple pollen is a big trigger for your child, for instance, you can limit the time he spends outdoors on the days when that particular pollen count is highest.

Newspapers and weather broadcasts on local television often feature pollen and mold counts. For a four-day allergy forecast in your region, check the Allergy Alert service at www.pollen.com, or call the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology at 800-976-5536. Limit outdoor play on high-pollen days. It may seem cruel to make your children come inside when the weather is gorgeous, but this strategy really helps, experts say. Keep your windows closed, especially on nice days, when warm, dry conditions make it easier for pollen to travel on the breeze. (Early morning tends to be a high-pollen time of day.) Be sure to put a clean filter in the air-conditioning system at the start of the season and replace it every two to three months.

Mow your lawn. The height of your lawn doesn't affect the release of pollen, but long grass does provide a shady, wet, more sheltered environment for the underlying soil, where mold grows.

Rake old leaves. Last fall, after you finished raking, a few more leaves fell or blew into your yard, and there they sit, their protected undersides slick with moisture. "Leaves are a huge problem because they provide an ideal place for mold to grow," Dr. Wood says. Rake up the leftovers and put them in the garbage or take them to a recycling dump.

Reduce pollen cling. Like a fine household dust, pollen clings to clothes, skin, and just about anything else it lands on. (Oak pollen, for example, forms a yellowish powder that you may notice dusting parked cars in springtime.) To keep it off your child, avoid hanging clothes, towels, or sheets outside to dry. Have your child wear sunglasses or eyeglasses outdoors to help keep pollen away from her eyes, and when she comes in, use a damp washcloth to wipe her face, especially around her eyes. Just before bedtime, have your child take a bath or a shower. "Otherwise, she'll go to bed with a head full of pollen, which she'll react to all night long," Dr. Wood says.

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