Hay fever is just a fancy way of saying allergies — those stereotypical allergies with sneezing, a runny nose and itchy, watery eyes. While it's common to be on the lookout for these allergies in the spring when nature is in bloom, it's not uncommon for kids to experience the same symptoms year-round.
"You can get it any time of year," says Dr. Purvi Parikh, an allergist and immunologist with the Allergy & Asthma Network. This means that just when you start to think your little one is fighting a back-to-school cold and you want to blame other germy kids, their runny nose and sneezing bouts could actually be hay fever at work. Dr. Neeta Ogden, an allergist and asthma specialist, explains further. “Starting in late August, we experience a ragweed season, and typically there’s another bump up of allergy symptoms similar to what you see in the spring,” she says.
But, what can you do before the first day of school?
“There are two kinds of kids. Those that you know have seasonal allergies and those where you may not know because they’ve never had it before,” explains Dr. Ogden. If your child falls into the former camp, make sure the school nurse is aware of what you’ve discussed with your allergist and has all the proper treatments for a flare-up whether it's pills, spray or an inhaler. Be particularly diligent if your child has asthma.
“Traditionally, kids with asthma tend to have more severe symptoms,” adds Dr. Ogden. “It’s important to make sure your child is on their daily medication so they’re controlled before they’re exposed to a trigger,” she says.
But aren’t there other important regimens besides medications? Of course. And it’s not unlike what you would do in the spring. First, sleep with closed windows. According to Dr. Parikh, early morning is when pollen counts are highest. Additionally, bath time before bedtime is a must in order to wash off the allergens that may be hanging on for dear life — to clothes, to skin, to hair, wherever they may have accumulated at recess. Dr. Ogden recommends gently wiping down eyes and eyelids as well. Plus, be aware of pets that may be attracting allergens into their bedroom.
As far as those kids who’ve never experienced allergies, if your kid does get sick and you’re starting to question whether it’s really a cold, the best way to tell is the recurrence of symptoms. “A cold will last for a week to 10 days, and then you really do get better. With allergies, you’ll find that the symptoms recur,” says Ogden. That’s when it’s time to visit an allergist (and maybe invest in an air purifier).
Vice versa, if you think your kid has allergies, and you give them antihistamines, watch closely to see if the symptoms really do get better. According to Ogden, antihistamines might dry out a runny nose, but if your kid has a cold, they’ll still feel pretty lousy. While it’s frustrating to determine the difference, the good news is both are fairly nonthreatening and easy to treat once you get to the bottom of the symptoms.
This post is sponsored by Children's Allegra.