Winter may finally be over — but your child’s persistently runny nose doesn’t seem to think so. Could it be allergies?
“Hay fever, or seasonal allergic rhinitis, happens at a predictable time of year — spring and fall — and lasts much longer than a cold,” says Stuart Carr, a paediatric allergist in Edmonton. When trees and plants release pollen, it gets into your child’s eyes and nose. If he’s allergy prone, his body defends itself by releasing histamines, inflaming the mucous membranes of the nose, eyes and mouth. This leaves kids with runny noses, watery eyes and an itchy palate — all symptoms of hay fever.
About 20 percent of children have hay fever, but parents and doctors often miss it. “Kids get used to a stuffy nose,” explains Carr. “They think it’s normal and don’t mention it.” Left untreated, hay fever can wreck sleep, sap energy, reduce concentration and, most seriously, increase the risk of asthma. “A child with hay fever has a 30 to 40 percent chance of developing allergic asthma, which is basically hay fever of the lungs,” he says.
Think you should keep your allergic kid indoors? Not at all, says Carr. Instead, try these six simple tips to control the symptoms:
The easy (and fast!) way to treat mild hay fever is with an over-the-counter, non-sedating antihistamine, says Carr. “These are extremely safe and useful medications that relieve symptoms and allow a kid to keep active outdoors.” Look for an antihistamine for children, such as Non-Drowsy Reactine Kids Syrup.
Toronto naturopathic doctor Sushma Shah says that drinking extra water every day during allergy season will keep mucus in the nose and sinuses thinner so symptoms won’t be as severe.
Nasal rinses can take some getting used to, but flushing the nose and sinuses with a saline solution washes away allergens and eases symptoms, says Carr. Kids can use these multiple times a day to feel better. HydraSense Gentle Mist is a softer-strength spray, making it easier on young noses.
“A healthy diet will also keep inflammation of the mucous membranes down,” Shah says. So load up kids’ lunches with strips of red pepper, oranges and carrots for extra antioxidants and vitamin C to support their immune systems.
Consider air conditioning
“This only works if your kids are allergic to grass, tree pollen or ragweed because it helps keep allergens out of the house,” says Carr.
A recent study from the University of Sweden found that the chemical propylene glycol — found in everyday water-based household cleaners — makes allergies worse. So swap your cleaning products for green options. Try Clorox Green Works all-purpose cleaner or stick to a 50-50 vinegar and water mix in a spray bottle.