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For some of us, spring is a welcome change from the cold of winter and the bleakness of the landscape. For others, it can signal the beginning of sneezing, stuffy nose, itchy eyes and other miserable allergy symptoms. There are things that you can do, however, to ease the discomfort and lessen the symptoms for you and your family.

Are there common causes of spring allergies?

Early spring allergies are generally a result of tree pollen being released into the air. Trees set their buds in the fall, and once temperatures reach 40 degrees, pollen starts to be released. If you or your family member is affected by tree pollen, this initial release can signal the beginning of your symptoms.

Pollen is a substance released into the air by trees, grasses and weeds to fertilize other plants. Pollen can be seen as an invading substance, like a virus, in the body of someone allergic to it. In response, the body creates antibodies to battle the invader. These antibodies cause a chemical, called histamines, to be released in the blood. This chemical causes the symptoms an allergy-sufferer feels.

What symptoms do allergies cause?

Each allergy sufferer reacts slightly differently to the triggers, however common symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy or watery eyes
  • Coughing
  • Dark circles under the eyes

When do spring allergies begin?

In the early spring, the temperature may hover in the 40s for a few days and then return to the cold – including snow. Allergy symptoms can last up to 7 days after exposure to the pollen. If you have been exposed to the pollen, you may be suffering the effects of the pollen even though there is snow on the ground!

When should I start allergy medicine?

Once the air temperature reaches 40 degrees, allergy sufferers should begin taking a daily medication. Over-the-counter anti-histamines are often quite effective in reducing or eliminating symptoms. Always check with your physician, there are many medications which are safe for children and help with these allergies. Here are some guidelines:

  • Anti-histamines should be taken daily until the allergy trigger is gone.
  • For those allergic to tree pollen, begin when the temperature is 40 degrees and end by about Memorial Day.
  • If grass pollen is causing the allergy, end by about July 4.

Tree pollen allergies begin with 40-degree weather and end Memorial Day.
Grass pollen allergies last until the 4th of July

Besides medication, is there action I can take to help my family during allergy season?

Tree and grass pollen are generally found outdoors. However, staying indoors for the entire season is clearly not an option. These steps will help when pollen is in the air:

  • Listen to local weather broadcasts for pollen counts. The higher the pollen count, the worse the symptoms will be.
  • Keep your windows and doors closed in your home. Use central air conditioning – or a window air conditioner with a filter in the allergic person’s room.
  • In the car, use your air conditioner and keep windows closed.
  • Pollen counts are highest on dry, windy days. However, the pollen count is at its lowest in the evening. If your child needs to play outside, evening is the best time.
  • Wash clothes worn outside before wearing again.
  • Shower and shampoo daily to remove pollen that has settled on the body during the day.

If your child needs to play outside, evening is the best time during allergy season.

Special note about apples, pears and carrots

A protein which resembles pollen is found in certain raw foods such as apples, pears and carrots. If you or your child have an allergic reaction to pollen, these foods should be eaten with caution.

Greg Severson, MD

Methodist Physicians Clinic HealthWest

Dr. Severson answers your questions about child development and parenting. One of the most gratifying aspects of pediatrics, for Dr. Severson, is watching an infant grow and change into a young adult. He is a natural teacher and he enjoys teaching parents how to provide the best care for their children. Dr. Severson loves kids and he is enriched by his interactions with them every day. He recognizes that children are unique and special. He hopes that his recommendations will help parents m ...

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