Spring has sprung! Mother Nature is back with all the stuffy noses, runny eyes and itches she typically brings this time of year. And during a pandemic, these symptoms are less than socially acceptable. Dr Renee Fernandez MD, CCFP is a Family Doctor, Executive Director of BC Family Doctors and Mom to an allergy sufferer so she understands the challenges that comes with Springtime. If you or your child have hay fever or seasonal allergies, there are a few of her tips to minimize and treat irritating symptoms.
How to manage allergies in your kids
Reduce allergens in your home
After a long winter, it’s tempting to open all the windows, but that lovely fresh air brings pollen in with it. Keeping windows closed will make your home a more comfortable space. Your child also does a good job of bringing pollen in when they come inside the house. For some kids, it makes a big difference for their itchy eyes and runny nose if they change their clothes and wash their hands and face when they come inside.
Keep allergens out of your child’s bedroom
This is particularly important if you’re hoping for some sleep. If possible, keep your child out of their bedroom during the day (you may have to deal with the toy clutter somewhere else.) A bath or shower before bed can help remove more of the allergens before bedtime. Finally, wash sheets, pillowcases and blankets at least once a week in hot water (130 F/54 C).
Sometimes all the home modifications aren’t enough to keep our kids comfortable. And we can’t keep our kids inside all the time (even during this pandemic). We want them to be active and get some sunshine and fresh air. So in some circumstances, you may need to use medication to relieve symptoms.
Oftentimes, we think that we should take medication only when we allergy symptoms are present. Allergy medications work best when taken consistently — and can take a while to kick in. Your child will do better if you get them started when their itchy eyes, sneezing or sniffles begin. And you may need to continue until allergy season is over.
It’s important to choose the safest allergy medication for your child. Many parents are familiar with Benadryl from their childhood or from browsing the pharmacy shelves. We no longer recommend this medication or other ‘first-generation’ antihistamines due to concerns about significant side effects. The medicinal ingredient in Benadryl (diphenhydramine hydrochloride) can make children drowsy and irritable. And if they take too high a dose, they can end up in hospital. A 2019 position statement from the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (CSACI) warns against Benadryl as a first-line treatment for hay fever and other allergies in both children and adults.
Safe allergy medications
Reactine, Claritin and Aerius, are safer, more effective and work faster. Most importantly, these newer medications cause much less or no drowsiness – and pose much less risk. If you’ve never used allergy medication with your child before or you’ve tried an over-the-counter medication, but it’s not working, book an appointment with your family doctor. Sometimes changing to a different medication, altering the dose, or using it another way will make all the difference. Your doctor can also be sure that there isn’t something else besides allergies going on. BC family doctors are seeing patients by phone/video and using significant precautions at our offices to keep everyone safe.
Many allergy symptoms look similar to COVID-19 symptoms. We’d like our children to keep their masks on as much as possible when at school or outside the home – making it important to reducing the sneezing and nose blowing that goes along with allergies. It’s important to know the symptoms of COVID-19 and manage your child’s allergy symptoms to help differentiate between them.
Jenn Wint is a writer, communications strategist and a public relations specialist. She is passionate about storytelling and community. Jenn lives in East Vancouver with her husband, 3yo son and 1yo daughter. You’ll find them hanging around Vancouver’s playgrounds, water parks, coffee shops and anywhere that bakes fresh cookies in-house!