While the warmer days of spring often mean more outdoor play for children, it can also signal a time when allergies run rampant.
Spring allergies occur in children who have developed an allergic response to pollens in the environment. Although they can be challenging to manage, there are steps we can take to minimise symptoms and help your child find some relief.
What are the symptoms of seasonal allergies?
- Nasal symptoms including:
- itchy nose
- blocked nose that can lead to a nasally sounding voice, mouth breathing or snoring
- clear, watery runny nose (if the nasal discharge is yellow or green, this could be an infection)
- Red, itchy, watery eyes
- Asthma symptoms such as dry cough wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath
What are the triggers and how can I avoid them?
Symptoms of seasonal allergies often flare up when there’s pollen in the air. In spring, this is most commonly due to grass pollens, and occasionally weed and tree pollens. Although many families think of allergies as an outdoor problem, there are some steps you can take to reduce the severity of symptoms before you leave the house.
Inside the home:
- Check the pollen count for the day online or via your favourite app. The University of Melbourne has developed the Melbourne Pollen app to make this easy.
- Keep windows and doors closed when pollen counts are high.
- Close air vents in car on days when pollen counts are high.
- Watch for thunderstorm asthma alerts. The Department of Health Epidemic thunderstorm asthma risk forecast or the VicEmergency app are useful resources.
- Postpone any gardening activities such as mowing lawns and weed pulling.
- Remove clothes your child has worn outside and shower to rinse pollen from skin and hair.
- Don’t hang laundry outside if possible, pollen can stick to sheets and towels.
- If you do need to leave home, wearing a face mask and sunglasses can help reduce the likelihood of symptoms.
Remedies to try at home
- Nasal steroid sprays: Nasal steroid sprays are available over the counter and are the mainstay of treatment for spring allergies. It is recommended to use this remedy daily before the onset of symptoms, and to continue to use it until the end of pollen season. It’s important to note that these sprays are not a quick fix and take two to three weeks of use to become effective.
- Nasal decongestant sprays: Nasal decongestant sprays are also available over the counter and can provide temporary relief of symptoms but should not be used for more than three days in a row.
- Antihistamines: Antihistamines are useful for sneezing and an itchy or runny nose but won’t be effective for blocked noses. These are available over the counter and at some supermarkets.
When to see a doctor
If over the counter remedies are not effective and symptoms are severe and affecting day-to-day life, it is recommended that you take your child to see a doctor.
A visit to the GP is also recommended when symptoms are not typical of allergies or when symptoms change, for example, if your child has green or yellow nasal discharge instead of clear discharge, this could suggest an infection.
Parents should also visit their child’s GP during an asthma flare, or if they are concerned about the possibility of a thunderstorm asthma attack.
Symptoms of COVID-19 and allergies are similar and it can be difficult to tell if your child’s symptoms are just seasonal allergies or something more. If your child has new symptoms that you think might not be allergies and match the symptoms of COVID-19, they should have a COVID-19 test. You can learn more allergies and COVID-19 by reading our Kids Health Info fact sheet.