It’s Allergy Season….
April showers bring May flowers, but they also bring out boxes of tissues. It’s hay-fever season, and sneezing and itchy eyes can make kids miserable. Spring is also tough for the 5 million children in the U.S. who have asthma, because about half of their bouts of breathing problems are triggered by pollen and other airborne allergens. Your child’s wheezing or sneezing may ease up once this peak allergy season has passed, but kids can be bothered by asthma and allergies all year long. “Every season brings a different set of irritants and allergens,” says Stanley Fineman, M.D., a pediatric allergist in Atlanta. The right medications will provide relief, but there’s a tremendous amount you can do to.
Grass and Tree Pollen
Try to keep your allergic kids inside on windy days, when pollen is blowing around, and before 10 a.m., when pollen counts are highest. Keep windows closed and air-conditioning on in both your home and car. Because pollen sticks to skin, hair, and clothes, kids with allergies or allergy-induced asthma should wash their hands and face and if possible change into clean clothes when they come indoors, says Michael Zacharisen, M.D., an allergist at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, in Milwaukee. Leave a basket by the door for shoes, so no one will track pollen through the house. And don’t line-dry clothes, towels, or linens outside where they’ll attract pollen and mold.
Your annual big cleanup is a great way to get rid of dust and mold, if you do it properly. Use a damp cloth to trap allergens, and use a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. If possible, do your cleaning when your child can be out of the house for several hours, especially if you’re going to be stirring up large amounts of dust by taking down draperies or cleaning light fixtures.
Children breathe more rapidly and inhale more air pollutants than adults do. Kids with asthma are particularly sensitive to the ozone in urban smog, which limits their ability to take deep breaths. Air pollution is at its worst on hot, humid days. Check your city’s air-quality index by visiting airnow.gov. On high smog days (some areas call these “Ozone Action Days”), your asthmatic child should limit vigorous exercise as well as time spent outdoors, especially from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., when smog is most intense.
Fall Festivities and Decorations
A trip to the pumpkin patch or apple orchard can cause trouble for children with allergies and asthma. “Mold spores thrive in these damp, earthy places,” Dr. Zacharisen says. You should also limit your child’s exposure to straw, hay bales, cornhusks, and piles of leaves, which harbor mold. Make sure your child washes up and changes clothes after a fall outing.
Indoor Swimming Pool
Chlorine-saturated pools often trigger asthma symptoms. However, swimming is a great activity for kids with asthma because the warm, moist air soothes their airways. Outdoor pools are the safest because the irritating chlorine gas doesn’t accumulate, but if your child does swim indoors, choose a pool that is well ventilated.
Potpourri and Candles
They’re not allergens per se, but fragrances in candles, potpourri, incense, and air fresheners can inflame an asthmatic child’s airways or bring on an allergic sneezing fit. Avoid these products and ask family and friends to do the same when you visit.
Dirty Heat Vents
Forced-air furnaces circulate airborne dust, animal dander, and other allergens. “Have your ducts cleaned professionally with brushes and vacuums that have HEPA filters,” says May. You should also vacuum vents regularly using your HEPA vacuum’s attachments.
Fireplaces and Wood-Burning Stoves
Fireplaces make our homes feel warm and cozy when it’s cold out, but they’re a major problem for kids with asthma. “Wood smoke contains most of the same toxins, except for nicotine, as tobacco does, and they can get deep into a child’s lungs,” says pediatric pulmonologist Harold J. Farber, M.D., author ofControl Your Child’s Asthma. “If you must have a fireplace, get a gas fireplace, which produces much less pollution than a wood-burning one.”