After a long, cold spring, nothing feels better than finally spending time outside in the warm summer sun — unless you or your child has asthma or allergies. But you can still enjoy this time of year if you take the proper precautions.
What are allergies and why are they so rampant this time of year?
When you have an allergy — in this instance if you’re allergic to pollen — your immune system sees it as a foreign substance, which causes your immune system to react. This reaction can cause many symptoms, such as a runny nose, excessive mucus production, nasal congestion, sneezing, itchy nose, eyes, ears and mouth, red and watery eyes, and swelling around the eyes. These symptoms are annoying to you or your child at the very least, but they can also lead to an asthma episode, something that all parents want to prevent.
When plants grow and bloom they also produce pollen. Pollen from trees, weeds and grasses are light enough to travel by wind, causing allergies to flare up and, for some, causing an asthmatic episode.
Experts call the allergy and asthma attacks caused by this time of year “seasonal allergic rhinitis.” Grass pollen is usually highest in June and mold spores can be high all year long, but levels can rise in the spring.
You can help your child get relief from these allergies and prevent an asthmatic episode by keeping the following in mind:
- Make sure kids begin taking their ordered allergy medication as soon as possible and as directed on their Asthma Action Plan, a written plan that is created with the patient and family, an asthma educator specialist and the primary care provider to help control the child’s asthma, with the goal of preventing and reducing asthma episodes and decreasing hospital visits.
- Keep the windows closed and use an air conditioner, and have your child avoid outdoor activities on days when the pollen count is high. Watch your local weather forecasts for the predicted pollen count or check Pollen.com.
Avoid the outdoors during peak pollen times. Pollen is usually highest from 5-10 a.m. and then again at dusk. Pollen is also higher on warm, breezy days.
- Watch your local weather forecasts for the predicted pollen count or check Pollen.com.
- Have your child use their rescue inhaler before going outside if pollen is an allergy trigger for them.
- Have your child wear a hat when outside to cut down on the pollen clinging to their hair.
- Have your child avoid being outside when you are cutting the grass and be certain to pick up the clippings. If you are planting a new cover, you might consider a plant with less pollen like Irish moss (ask your local nursery for assistance).
Control the amount of pollen in your home. It will come in from the outside with you.
- Keep windows closed.
- Remove shoes before entering the house.
- Don’t allow pets that go outside to come into bedrooms.
- Take a shower, wash your hair and change your clothes every night when you have been outside.
- Dry sheets and clothing indoors using a clothes dryer; do not hang outside.
- In the car, keep the windows up and keep the air conditioner on recirculate, so it doesn’t bring air from the outside into your car.
If, after taking all of these precautions, your child is still experiencing asthma episodes, considering speaking with the Community Hospital Asthma Management Program (CHAMP) at Winchester Hospital. CHAMP works with a child’s team to coordinate care and communication among the members including, but not limited to, the child’s pediatrician, school nurse, teachers, and most importantly the parents and child. This approach is designed to involve a community of people in helping the child and their caregivers manage asthma more effectively, because as we all know, it takes a village.
Don’t let asthma and allergies keep you from enjoying this wonderful season and all its beauty. Stay cautious and proactive, and enjoy the sunshine.
Referrals to CHAMP can be made by a parent/guardian, school nurse or primary care provider by calling the Center for Healthy Living 781-756-4700.