Cheatsheet to Spring Allergies

It’s warming up on the West Coast (and soon for the rest of you), and lots of us are ITCHY and SNEEZY with pollen counts at an all-time high, winds blowing, and outdoor activities again dominating our lives. So, if you or your kids have seasonal allergies, here’s some advice on how to stay comfortable (and take advantage of some very good over-the-counter remedies).

  • Have non-sedating antihistamine (like Claritin, Zyrtec or Allegra) on hand for rough days. Claritin (loratidine), Zyrtec (cetirizine) and Allegra (fexofenadine) are now over-the-counter, come in liquid, dissolvable tablets, and pill forms – and can be used safely in even young children (check with your health care provider for his/her okay). Use antihistamines if your child has uncomfortable from itching, lots of disruptive sneezing, itchy eyes, or hives/rash after being outdoors. Benadryl (diphenhydramine) also works, but can be sedating, and only lasts 4-6 hours, as opposed to the non-sedating types that last 12-24 hours.
  • When you anticipate being outdoors, especially if it is windy, wear glasses or sunglasses to reduce the amount of pollen contact with eyes. Your eyes are a common portal of entry, use your eye protection to block them off.
  • If your child is playing a lot of outdoor sports (you baseball and soccer parents surely can relate) and has itching, sneezing, and runny eyes during practices and games, ask your doctor about preventive medication or premedication with a non-sedating antihistamine a few hours before anticipated play….your child will thank you for it. If your child has a tendency to wheeze with outdoor sports or contact with windy/grassy/tree-filled areas, make sure you administer your controller/preventive inhalers daily or before sports – whatever your doctor has recommended.
  • It’s key to undress and shower immediately after coming in from outdoor activities or play to reduce the amount of the pollen “cloud” that surrounds your child. In addition, wiping down your pets after walks outside can reduce the amount of pollen dragged into your home.
  • For VERY itchy eyes, especially if they swell when rubbed, having anti-itch drops available is a good idea. Over the counter OpCon or NapCon , or Visine A can add needed moisture to itchy eyes, constrict blood vessels that cause redness, and give needed temporary relief. There are prescription alternatives as well. Often, itchy eyes can be helped by applying washcloths dipped in ice water and wrung out. Alternatives are cucumber slices or wrung out tea bags to alleviate itch.
  • Bug bites (mosquitoes, sand fleas) are very common now, especially since the grass is long, we are out to play in sandals or bare feet, and like to linger in the cool grass at dusk. What do you do if your child gets SUPER ITCHY or PUFFY/SWOLLEN at a bite site? Again, cool compresses, an oral antihistamine (do NOT use TOPICAL benadryl, as it can sensitize the host and eventually cause an allergic reaction) and a topical hydrocortisone applied to the itchy bite site (1/2 or 1%) can give immediate relief. Bites on the feet and hands can cause venom reactions that look scary – a lot of swelling, redness (due to the blood supply of hands and feet, and the fact that swelling is confined to a tightly bound tissue). If there are no red streaks, painful spreading redness, or fever, a venom reaction is the likely cause, and may take 3-5 days to settle down. When in doubt, call your doctor.
  • Heat Rash – now that our thermometers are going to be rising higher, heat rashes are often confused with allergy….heat rashes generally itch, but are more commonly distributed in areas that collect heat – necklines, armpits, backs of knees and faces. The principles of treatment are the same for these – get out of the heat, hydrate with cool fluids, dress in cool, breathable clothing, apply cool cloths to affected areas. Cool baking soda or oatmeal baths are soothing to itchy skin. These interventions and a day or two out of the heat usually resolve the majority of heat rashes.

Next month, we’ll continue talking about food substitutions – EGG substitutes will be discussed. In the meantime, enjoy the stirrings of spring and summer!




About Dr. JJ Levenstein

Dr. JJ Levenstein is a board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and in 2012 retired from her thriving private pediatric practice in Encino, California. She served on the staff of CHLA and Encino Tarzana Hospitals for 20 years and was consistently voted one of the Best Doctors in America® from 2003 through 2012. Drawing from her experience as a pediatrician and mom, Dr. Levenstein serves as president and co-founder of MD Moms, makers of Baby Silk, the first personal care line for babies developed by pediatrician moms. She serves on the board of United Cerebral Palsy LA, is an active writer and sits on the advisory boards of several child-centered websites. She is an accomplished chef and completed culinary school in 2013! She has had a lifelong interest in child nutrition and all things related to preventive health.

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