PUTTING UP WITH POLLEN
How to deal with spring and summer allergies
By understanding how spring and summer allergies affect your child’s health, you can help them better handle—or even avoid—the sneezing, coughing, stuffy nose and watery eyes brought on by the season.
If your little ones have been sneezing or rubbing their eyes a lot lately, they could be suffering from an allergy to something that lives among all the beautiful vegetation we have in Southwest Florida. During the spring, common allergy culprits are pollen from oak, pine, elm, bayberry and birch trees. Grass pollen is typically the major allergen during the summer months.
When someone has an allergy, their body reacts to things that are usually harmless to most people. If your kids are sensitive to any of these spring and summer allergy triggers, you might see it show up in upper and lower respiratory symptoms along with skin symptoms. Your kids might complain of a stuffy nose or an itchy nose, throat or eyes. Their eyes might tear up more frequently, and you may hear them coughing. Children with asthma might experience flare-ups during allergy season.
The best treatment options can vary from child to child. “Avoidance of the allergy triggers is the best way to reduce symptoms,” says Dr. Gaston Turnier, an allergy and immunology specialist at Lee Health. “Limit outdoor activities and avoid early morning exercise, keep the windows closed and take a shower after coming indoors, which will remove residual pollen from the hair.”
Cleaning and replacing air filters can also help block allergens. When it comes to medication, doctorrecommended options could include a second-generation antihistamine, intranasal steroid, antihistamine eye drops or allergen immunotherapy (also known as allergy shots).
Educating young patients and their parents is also important. “We offer the appropriate information to all of our patients, which helps them with a better understanding of their diseases and, consequently, a better management,” says
Dr. Turnier. “We are also able to identify the responsible triggers of their symptoms and offer specific directives to avoid them. We discuss various treatments and engage the patient in the decision making, which helps with compliance.”
Treatment plans might involve physicians in other specialties, like infectious disease, hematology/ oncology or Lee Health’s Asthma Management Program. For patients with food allergies, a medical staff will help them develop an avoidance and emergency plan so they can take precautions to prevent reactions and know how to treat them if they occur.
If you suspect your child might have an allergy but aren’t sure, physicians like Dr. Turnier at Lee Health can assist with a diagnosis. After getting the child’s medical history, a physician will do a physical examination and then determine the appropriate diagnostic testing to answer the questions at hand.
“Parents should talk to their pediatrician or to an allergist regarding their concern,” says Dr. Turnier. “If the symptoms suggest a possible allergy, an allergy test for inhalants done either by blood test or, more accurately, by skin testing by an allergist will confirm the child’s specific allergy.”