When the first days of spring arrive, we all want to throw open our windows and doors and rush outside to breathe fresh air and enjoy the sun on our faces. As parents, that delight ratchets up when we can start planning days out with the kids.
Yet, if your child has seasonal allergies, from tree pollen to grass, spring and summer may bring challenges - but you can still have fun in the sun together.
Allergies are especially common in children. Symptoms include a runny nose, itchy eyes and sneezing, caused by the membranes inside the nose becoming inflamed by an allergic reaction. If your child starts to develop symptoms which you think may be an allergy to something, keep a diary noting down the date, time, symptoms and duration and where they had been and potential causes. Tree pollen, for example, can be released at different times of the year depending on the species. If you’re concerned, your first point of call should be a pharmacist or - for more serious concerns - your GP.
The good news is allergies are all manageable and should not prevent your kids from getting outdoors and being active. In fact, as many as 40 per cent of children in the UK will suffer from hay fever.
That said, there are simple precautions you can take to outsmart common airborne allergens like pollens from trees, grass and mould spores.
1. Check pollen counts and the weather forecast. Most pollen is released early in the morning, so on days when the pollen count is high it may be wise to plan your time outdoors for later in the day. Playing outdoors just after a summer shower is a good time too.
2. On high pollen days, encourage kids to shower and wash hair after arriving home and change their clothing. Avoid drying laundry outside when pollen counts are high.
3. If you have a lawn, keep the grass short and when mowing, keep windows closed. Alternatively, you might want to look at artificial grass as an alternative.
4. Encouraging your child to wear cool wrap-around sunglasses is a good way to keep pollen out of eyes.
“My youngest daughter suffers really badly from hay fever. She gets a streaming nose and red, itchy eyes and just feels wretched. If we’re planning a day out, our best bet is to head to the beach. Apparently there are lower pollen levels near the sea, because of the wind and moisture in the air. I’ve definitely noticed that Dolly seems less affected when we’re on a beach or at a swimming pool. On high pollen days, I encourage her to wear sunglasses - she’s got quite a collection - and we try to keep windows and doors shut, especially car windows.” Shona, mum to nine-year-old Dolly
5. A tiny smear of Vaseline under the nose is also a good way to trap pollen and keep the nasal membranes from becoming irritated.
6. Talk to your child. How you explain allergies to your child will depend on their age and level of understanding. If you know what’s causing an allergic reaction, show them the cause and talk to your child about how they need to always tell you how they’re feeling and how to seek help if you’re not around.
7. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of carrying antihistamines to relieve symptoms if they do flare up (always check the label first). Plus, you may discover other potential allergic reactions, for example, to insect bites and stings or sunscreen.