By Paul F. Meyer, MD, primary care physician at Wake Forest Baptist Health Family -Medicine Lewisville

With mild weather and beautiful scenery, spring is one of the loveliest times of the year. Yet for people who suffer from allergies, it can also be one of the most miserable seasons. Spring can be especially difficult for allergic children because it drives them indoors during a time of year when they most want to go outside and play.

Fortunately, children don’t have to become shut-ins to make it through spring. There are a number of ways you can help them manage their seasonal allergies so they can enjoy all the fun this season has to offer:

1. Limit long periods of playtime on certain days (and certain times of day).
When it comes to free time outside, avoid letting your child spend time outside in early mornings, as that’s the time of day when flowering plants produce the most pollen. Also avoid long periods of time outside during dry, windy days. Ideal days for extended playtime are damp days or days that follow a big rainstorm.

2. Take advantage of over-the-counter treatments.
Obviously, you can’t always control when your child will be outdoors. For instance, if your child is on a tennis or baseball team, he or she must conform to scheduled matches and games, regardless of how dry or damp it is on that day. That’s why it’s important to make sure your child’s allergy symptoms are well managed. Antihistamines, which can be found over the counter (OTC) at any drug store or supermarket, are very helpful at controlling allergy symptoms. These drugs—which are available in liquid, oral tablets, nasal sprays and eye drops—are not usually recommended for children under age 2. If your child is still very young, contact your primary care provider (PCP) for guidance.

3. Call your doctor when OTCs aren’t enough.
If your child is still experiencing miserable allergy symptoms, even with antihistamines, you might want to consider a prescription treatment, such as a nasal steroid spray. To find out if this is an option for your child, make an appointment with your PCP. Nasal steroid sprays are usually acceptable for children over age 5. In some situations, an appointment with an allergist may be necessary if your child requires advanced testing or treatment (such as allergy shots).

4. Keep your children from carrying allergens (pollens) indoors.
If your child has been playing outside, have him or her take his or her shoes off at the door. The child should also change clothes immediately. At night, make sure your child has a bath or shower to keep the allergens from getting into the bed. Or, at least, wipe the child’s skin and hair down with a wet cloth.

5. Make spring cleaning an ongoing habit.
When it comes to allergens, you can’t control what’s outside. However, you should strive to make your home a safe zone. This means keeping windows closed, changing furnace and air conditioner filters regularly, vacuuming and dusting frequently, and washing bed linens and clothing often.

Note: Not all allergies are due to pollen. Within the home, your child may be having problems with dust mites, animal dander, dust and cigarette smoke. It may be necessary to remove carpets, rugs, stuffed animals and pets from your home. Mattress and pillow covers are needed for some children to decrease their exposure to allergens. If your child’s symptoms continue to be a problem, contact your PCP for help.

Which of the above methods have you tried? Which have you found most successful? Sound off in the comments below. If you’ve already applied some or all of these tactics, and your child is still having a lot of trouble with allergies, contact your pediatrician or PCP. You can also make an appointment with me by calling (336) 716-WAKE.

*Sponsored by Wake Forest Baptist Health