Does Your Child Have Fall Allergies?
Many kids have seasonal allergies in the fall. Here's how to detect and minimize symptoms.
For many children, cooler weather comes with an onslaught of fall allergy symptoms. The main culprit is ragweed—a flowering weed that grows across the nation. Mold is also a common allergen this time of year, as the piles of leaves on the ground coupled with a moisture spurs mold growth. Here are fall allergy symptoms and treatment options that parents need to know.
What is Ragweed?
According to Robert Wood, M.D., director of pediatric allergy clinics at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, many children who have springtime pollen, grass, and tree allergies also experience symptoms in the fall. Ragweed, which is most prevalent in the East and Midwest, is the biggest trigger.
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Ragweed season usually starts in August and lasts until September or October, depending on your location. Often ragweed can be bothersome until the first frost. The wind can carry ragweed for hundreds of miles—and since one plant can produce 1 billion grains of pollen annually, people all over the country can be affected.
Fall Allergy Symptoms
How do you know if your child is allergic to mold or ragweed? According to The American Academy of Pediatrics Guide to Your Child's Allergies and Asthma, here are some signs to watch out for this fall:
- Cold-like symptoms that last longer than one-two weeks. These symptoms can be repeated or chronic, and they include nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, and throat clearing.
- Sniffling, snorting, nose rubbing, itchy and runny eyes.
- A sensation of itching or tingling in the mouth and/or throat.
- Respiratory symptoms like coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.
Treatment for Fall Allergies
If your child is showing any fall allergy symptoms, you should start by trying to reduce her exposure to the allergens. While pollen and mold are found everywhere outdoors and cannot be completely avoided, there are a few things you can do.
Plan outdoor activities for the morning. Weed pollens are highest in the middle of the day, so stick with morning plans. After your child plays outside, have him take a shower, wash his hair, and change his clothes immediately.
Keep windows and outside doors shut during pollen season. Consider keeping an air conditioner running on low to continually clean the air in the house.
Keep up with pollen and mold counts. These often reported in the news. Making sure your child stays indoors during peak hours and keeping windows closed is even more important when the counts are high.
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. You should mow your lawn regularly until the grass stops growing.
Rake old leaves. "Leaves are a huge problem because they provide an ideal place for mold to grow," says Dr. Wood. Rake up the leftovers and put them in the garbage or take them to a recycling dump. Also, don't let your child play in dead or wet leaves.
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If your child's allergy symptoms continue to interfere with his daily life (energy level, attention, etc.), speak to his pediatrician. Kids' allergies can often be treated with a basic antihistamine or decongestant. However, more severe allergies may require regular allergy shots during the peak seasons. Also check with the pediatrician before administering any medicine to your child.