Spring has sprung, and with it comes a plethora of seasonal allergens – ragweed, grass, budding trees, blooming flowers and more. The most common allergens include pollen, dust mites, mold, pet dander, and insect venom, which are many of the things we run into in our daily life, even if they go unnoticed. With the beautiful weather, you’re likely to want to open all your windows and doors in your home, but before you do, let’s talk seasonal allergies, especially those that can affect toddlers.
If you or your partner tend to struggle with seasonal allergies, it’s likely that your toddler will as well; unfortunately, allergies are part of our DNA and get passed along from parent to child. Seasonal allergies in children can range from mild to severe, just as they affect adults. The good news is that there are preventative measures you can take to eliminate or delay the onset of allergies in your child. Let’s examine some triggers of seasonal allergies and what you can do to prevent them.
7 Tips for Preventing Seasonal Allergies
1. Destroy Dust Mites
These airborne allergens are the perfect trigger for allergy-prone children, especially causing symptoms similar to a pollen or hay fever allergy, such as itchy, watery eyes, a runny nose, and sneezing. Dust mites are microscopic bugs that are a relative of the tick and spider family, invisible to the naked eye and constantly feeding on human skin cells, so they are definitely all around us! Per the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, to prevent dust mites from invading your home and child’s space:
- Make sure that carpets and upholstered furniture are removed from your child’s bedroom, opting for hardwood-like flooring instead.
- Be sure to run the vacuum weekly as well and consider investing in a vacuum with an HEPA-filter.
- Also, you can use zippered, “allergen-impermeable” coverings on pillows and as a mattress cover, being sure to wash bedding/sheets in hot water on a weekly basis.
- Make sure to wash stuffed toys in hot water every week as well – those friendly faces attract dust mites, too!
2. Allergies Around Animals
Since pet allergies are common, let’s understand what exactly causes someone with a pet allergy to have an itchy, sneezing, uncomfortable reaction. Pet allergies are caused by a pet’s dander (shedding of skin cells), saliva or urine. Many people who are allergic to pets just steer clear, but with a young child, it might be difficult to determine if a pet allergy is even present. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, determining the effects of pet allergies on children is a head-scratcher, at best. Some studies have shown that the more exposure a child has early in life to animals, the less likely they are to develop pet allergies. And there are studies where the opposite is true. If your child has been sneezing with a runny nose for the better part of three weeks, it’s a good guess that he or she is suffering from a pet allergy. If this is the case, the best thing to do is talk to your doctor. In the meantime, here are some tips for reducing pet allergens in your home:
- Keep things clean by bathing your pet(s) often.
- Similarly, to dust mite prevention, remove carpet, upholstered furniture and curtains from your home, opting for hardwood-like flooring and window blinds instead.
- Improve air quality by investing in a high-efficiency air purifier as well as vacuuming often.
- Having one or several “pet-free” zones in your home can also help to reduce allergy symptoms, especially keeping a bedroom allergen-free, since so many hours are spent sleeping at night!
- Don’t sleep with pets, even though they are snuggly and cute! The pet-allergens including dander, saliva, and urine will just be too close for comfort.
3. Stop Smoking
This one should go without saying, but obviously smoking while pregnant or exposing a small child to tobacco smoke will increase the likelihood of the child developing allergies and asthma. Keep your child away from cigarette smoke, particularly in enclosed spaces, to reduce the likelihood of developing wheezy breathing and chronic respiratory diseases.
4. Cut Up the Carpet
We’ve seen this recommendation a few times already, for destroying dust mites and reducing allergies around animals, so let’s just rip up the carpet already! Opting for hardwood floors with some area rugs, which can be easily vacuumed weekly, will help reduce allergens in the home. If you can’t rip up all your carpeting right now, consider starting in the bedroom, since you’re (hopefully) spending 8+ hours per night sleeping and breathing in one room. Also, if the carpet is laid over concrete, it can trap moisture, increasing the likelihood of developing mold, another common allergen. Additionally, moisture contributes to humidity in the home which is a negative trigger for those prone to allergy attacks; you want to keep the humidity in your home below 50%.
5. Heave-Ho the Houseplants
There are benefits to having house plants around to filter the air and brighten up décor, however, in the spring and summer months, it’s a good idea to move those plants outdoors. Houseplants tend to harbor mold spores, which grow in the warm, wet dirt during hotter weather. We all know that mold is one of the leading culprits of an allergy attack, so try to reduce that allergen factor in your home. Also, opting for fake plants isn’t much better since they are notorious dust collectors!
6. Walking Can Wait
We all love to get outdoors in the spring and summer, especially to take the little ones for a walk, but consider the time of day that you decide to get some fresh air. The morning hours (between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m.) are prime-time for allergens, including the highest pollen count. If your toddler suffers from seasonal allergies, or if you don’t want to take the risk of finding out, opt for an afternoon or early evening stroll with the stroller instead.
7. AC is Awesome
It’s so nice to air out the house in the spring and smell the earthy goodness that mother nature brings us. However, the pollen particles that invade your home once the windows are open can become problematic to adults and toddlers with seasonal allergies. Instead of throwing open your windows, run your air conditioner instead; just be sure that the air filter is clean! Air conditioners also tend to reduce humidity in the home, which benefits allergy suffers as well. If you do want to opt for some fresh air, wait until the afternoon since the pollen count is the highest in the morning hours.
Don’t wear your shoes in the house. The bottom of your shoes carries in allergens like pollen plus grass, pollutants, and toxins into your home. Keep the pollen spores out of your home by wiping your feet on a doormat prior to entering your home. Then, promptly remove your shoes before you start walking around and tracking every known allergen into your living space!
As you can see, there are many preventative measures you can take both indoors and outdoors this spring and summer to prevent seasonal allergies from attacking your toddler! By understanding what triggers seasonal allergies, the common culprits that cause attacks and ways to curb their menacing symptoms, you should be able to enjoy your spring and summer without an itchy, sneezing, runny-nosed kiddo.