Easy Tips for Navigating Allergy Season

children in a flower field

There are many things that make the Big Apple unique and fun, but New York parents may have to take extra precautions to keep their kids safe this spring if their tykes tend to suffer from seasonal allergies.

Many allergy sufferers report spring as their worst season, and it’s not surprising why when you consider how many trees and flowers are in full bloom after the cold winter months have finally moved on.

One particular reason for why New York’s pollen can be so troublesome is quite surprising.

“In New York we have a higher rate of allergies mainly because a lot of the parks that we have are planting male trees, which have higher levels of pollen,” says Dr. Reenal Patel, pediatric allergist at Allergy and Asthma Care of New York.

Male trees are used by the city because they tend to be easier to upkeep than female ones. “We also have wind tunnels because we have skyscraper buildings, so we get more symptoms in children and adults,” said Patel.

And those symptoms can be quite hard on young children. “Specifically for children, the symptoms we commonly see are runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes,” Patel says. Adults have similar symptoms.

“As parents, you have to be a private investigator and document the symptoms and look back at the month to see if your child was runny and congested, so you should consider starting medicine earlier for the next season to be ahead of the game,” Patel says.

There is a wide range of help out there, so there is no reason that any kid should suffer. “There are nasal sprays, antihistamines, and eye drops, but if someone does not want to be on medications for life, we can consider allergy drops or shots,” Patel says. Both are customized for the patient, and the shots will teach the body to lose sensitivity to the spring pollen.

There are also techniques you can try before resorting to medication. “Saline sprays help hydrate the mucous in the nose,” Patel says.

Have your kid shower when he comes in from the outdoors to remove pollen from the skin and hair. “We recommend keeping car windows up and having air purifiers to remove allergens from the air so your kid is less symptomatic,” Patel says.

Sunglasses and hats can keep pollen away from the hair and eyes. But if these measures fail, medications are available.

“We recommend nasal steroid spray if oral antihistamines are not working but to start medications earlier and before the season starts so the nasal sprays have time to kick in and help out during the spring season,” Patel says.

Certain foods can be problematic as well. Beware of raw fruits and vegetables that can cause an itchy mouth or throat. “The most common food allergies in children are soy, egg, milk, peanuts, and tree nuts, so we recommend that parents introduce peanuts earlier into the diet so we can evaluate them if there is an allergic reaction and get ahead of the game,” Patel says.

Studies show early introduction yields better results.

“If the child is allergic, we have them remove it from the diet, but there is a chance the reaction may have been misunderstood by the parents or something else may have been going on around the same time, so we do the gold-standard supervised food challenge in the office with lifesaving medications,” Patel says. This way if your child has a reaction, they are still safe.

The good news is that spring seasonal allergies are manageable. “At least 75 percent of allergies are here to stay, and some improve with age,” Patel says.

There’s no need to dread the pollen count that comes with the warmer weather each year. By keeping track of symptoms and when they happen, finding patterns, and having an action plan, your challenging season will suddenly become a lot easier.

Jamie Lober, author of Pink Power (getpinkpower.com), is dedicated to providing information on women’s and pediatric health topics. She can be reached at jamie@getpinkpower.com.