Babies and Seasonal Allergies

With all the wonderful things that come with spring, allergies are one of everyone’s least favorites.  As leaves reemerge on trees and flowers begin to bud, many of us experience those awful symptoms of springtime allergies.  With a new baby on board, you may see signs of a seasonal allergy in your little one too.  Today we’re discussing babies and seasonal allergies, including how to detect allergens that are affecting your baby and how to treat the symptoms.

Babies and Seasonal Allergies

Seasonal allergies differ from perennial allergies, or those that exist all year round.  Seasonal allergies usually flare up in the spring when pollen is at its height.  Usually April and May have the highest pollen count as that is when trees, flowers, grasses and weeds are showing signs of re-growth.  Grasses continue to affect allergy sufferers throughout the summer and then weeds creep in during the fall months.  Perennial allergies are usually caused by something more constant, such as pet dander, dust or mold.

Allergies are caused by an overreaction of the immune system.  When the body comes into contact with foreign substances, it forms antibodies to protect itself.  Usually these attacks are from microbes such as bacteria, parasites or viruses.  However, allergens confuse the immune system causing it to react as it would to any other potentially harmful invasion.  Once the body builds a response to an allergen, it usually reacts the same way every time it is confronted with that trigger, making it difficult to break the cycle of allergies.

As miserable as allergies are to you, just think about your baby who can’t communicate or understand why she’s feeling so lousy.  Common symptoms of allergies include a clear, thin, constant runny nose, itchy, watery eyes and a scratchy throat.  If those symptoms sound a lot like a cold, you’re right.  Many parents don’t recognize allergies at first and simply think their baby has developed a cold.  Colds can last for weeks in babies so confusion between colds and allergies is a common mistake.  The best way to determine the cause of your baby’s congestion is to keep a record.  Note when symptoms start and stop, when they are at their worst and if environmental factors affect symptoms.

Treating seasonal allergies in babies is not an exact science.  First, visit your pediatrician to ensure your baby does have allergies and not a true infection.  Bring your log of symptoms to share for a proper diagnosis.  Because antihistamines are not recommended for young children, you may end up treating allergy symptoms similar to a cold.  This includes unclogging nasal congestion with an aspirator, clearing the nose with saline spray, keeping your baby’s head propped for easier breathing and using a humidifier.  You should avoid spending time outdoors during days of extremely high pollen count and make sure doors and windows in your house remain closed.  At this young age, you should do everything you can to keep your baby comfortable as she muddles through allergy season.  Chances are, if your baby has allergies, someone else in your family does too so they can commiserate together.

As your child grows older, you’ll want to manage symptoms more aggressively.  Allergies can lead to other health problems such as not getting a productive night’s sleep.  Nasal congestion can cause disruptive sleep, snoring or mouth breathing.  Mouth breathing can cause teeth to come in at an odd angle.  Many symptoms of allergies drain the body of energy, which makes it difficult to concentrate on learning and playing.  And physical constraints and social issues may arise if children avoid spending time outdoors.  Additionally, untreated allergies increase risk of asthma, sinus infections and ear infections.

Learning the triggers and ways to manage babies and seasonal allergies is important to caring for your baby.  It is estimated that 40% of people suffer from some type of allergy.  Your baby could be one of them.  Know the signs and symptoms to stay on top of how to best treat your little love.