Research shows that almost 50% of children in the U.S. have some type of allergy. Every time a new season rolls around, it is common for parents to grow concerned about their children playing outside. On the one hand, the media and health professionals are consistently telling parents that children are spending too little time engaging in free play outdoors. On the other hand, pollen and other substances in the air can cause parents to keep children inside for much of the day. With so much back and forth, what compromise can be reached, and what is the best solution for your child's health?
Allergy Medication May Need to be Taken Earlier
If your child has moderate to severe allergies, their pediatrician may have prescribed antihistamines for them. Most antihistamines cannot be taken by children, so ensure what you are prescribed is gentle. Ask your doctor how early your child should start taking the prescribed medication. Some require various days to take effect, so ensure you start early enough to make a positive difference to your child’s play days.
Most people with allergies fear the spring, but each season may have different substances that bother your child. For instance, in the fall, children can be allergic to ragweed and certain fruits and vegetables. If symptoms start flaring up (for instance, watering eyes or sneezing), take note of the trees and plants nearby and considering having allergy testing for these species.
Take Note of Potential Allergens in Your Garden
If your children play in the garden as well as in playgrounds, the problem may be closer to home than you imagine. Asthma and other breathing problems can arise, for instance, if kids are exposed to mold in terraces and even on plants and vegetables in a home garden. One type of mold – white mold or sclerotinia - can affect over 360 types of plants, including lettuce, tomatoes, and cabbage. Mold can be caused by anything from leaks to poor grading, so if you find mold, calling an expert to assess and check for additional mold presence in other parts of the home is key. To clean small areas of mold, a water pressure cleaner and a borax-water solution may be sufficient. In the garden, make sure to remove damaged vegetables and check for signs of mold on outdoor banisters, benches, and pots.
Ever Hear of Immunotherapy?
One therapy that some children are finding success with is AIT (immunotherapy or allergy shots). They can be given twice a week (or bi-monthly) for three to five years. AIT acts like a vaccine, exposing your child to an allergen slowly until their immune system adapts. An oral form of this therapy was approved by the FDA in 2014. It is ideal for children who fear injections since all they have to do is pop a pill under their tongue. They have to be aged five or older and they will need to test positive for pollen allergies that cause specific symptoms before being prescribed this treatment.
If your children have allergies, this by no means needs to keep them inside. Children can still enjoy their favorite playground, so long as it's located in an allergy-free zone. Antihistamines, AIT and other treatments can help to reduce symptoms. By staying in on high-pollen days, keeping homes and gardens spic and span, and following a prescribed course of treatment, you can ensure your children receive all the physical and mental benefits that outdoor playtime can bestow.